Get to know

Stevan Saville

We meet the young British accessories designer stirring up leather-crafting

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He made his mark at the Best of British Open Call 2016 and now Stevan Saville’s new accessories collection has landed at Liberty. Rooted in England’s history of leather-crafting, the young label is stirring up the conventions of the craft, applying forward-thinking finishes to clean, utilitarian designs. And yet, with both seasonal collections and bespoke commissions handmade in Saville’s Islington studio, production remains small-scale, toeing a fine line between innovation and heritage. Following in the footsteps of a host of success stories from Weston to Silken Favours, our latest Open Call alumnus fills us in on his journey to Liberty…

“There was something about going from just buying and carrying a bag, to influencing the design and details in the bag which captured me”

On finding his niche…“I was first introduced to leather at a young age, going to a local Yorkshire clog factory with my Dad. I remember watching the craftsman handmaking shoes and thinking how much I really wanted some! I didn’t get any that day, but was given a leather pattern piece, a wooden sole and some nails to make my own at home. That Christmas I got some as a surprise and I loved them. My interest for leather goods grew from there.”

“In 2009 I left my career that I loved [and] joined the London College of Fashion to train as a cordwainer. There was something about going from just buying and carrying a bag, to influencing the design and details in the bag which captured me.”

On England’s leather-crafting heritage…“England has a long history with leather, dating back to the 12th century where the trade of leather was very important. As time has moved on, unfortunately we have lost a large part of our manufacturing industry. The current leather industry we have left in the UK is small and strong and we are proud to keep the skills of cordwaining alive.”

On balancing tradition and innovation…“Within my London based workshop, I have developed on my own techniques mixing traditional methods with modern design. It is important to me to share and continue these practices, so I regularly bring in interns and teach them the traditional base skills alongside newer, more modern techniques. Stevan Saville bags lie between innovation and tradition, […] designed to genuinely improve the wearer’s life whilst remaining beautiful object[s].”

On the Best of British Open Call…“The Liberty Open Call was something we’d been wanting to do for a while[; Liberty was always] one of the main stores we were aiming to get our products into and the Open Call seemed a good way to achieve this. On the day, myself and my business partner Jonathan queued for six hours and met some amazing people and saw some great examples of British design. Open Call is a fantastic way to reach out to small designers and has given me an amazing opportunity. Liberty are now my first large UK retailer.”

On getting the collection into Liberty…“We are very proud to have our collection for sale in Liberty which holds a very British and prestigious place in the luxury market. From meeting the buyers at Open Call, to them visiting the studio to choose the exclusive colours for the bags and then making them has been a whirlwind experience. We finished the first order the other day and it struck us exactly what was about to happen, it doesn’t quite feel real. I am really looking forward to seeing the products in-store – it will feel real then!”

On his London studio…“I personally handmake each bag from my studio in North London – with help from an amazingly talented small team of people. Each product is checked by me before it is released, so being a part of the production process is very important to me. As much as I am a designer and a businessman, I am very much a craftsman at heart so can’t imagine being separated too far away from the production process.”

On starting out in the industry…“Follow the path you want to succeed in, find an area that excites you within that and go for it. There will be sacrifices and it takes a phenomenal amount of time and effort. Starting your own business and making your own products is hard, but stick with it and the results will pay off – it is worth it. Work as an intern to gain experience, develop your products and test them, gain feedback from family and friends, make sure you follow through with your ideas and dream big!”

Check back for updates on next year’s Open Call and watch the 2016 video here.

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