For those who frequent east London, Kate Sheridan is a familiar face. After graduating from Cordwainers College, UAL in '97, the young designer cut her teeth with Patrick Cox and Jonny Moke, before launching her own label from her bedroom in Hackney. Selling her contemporary leather bags, coin purses and fashion pieces on neighbouring Broadway Market, Sheridan opened her beloved Clapton store-cum-workshop in 2014. Today, Kate Sheridan is a global name - but production remains local and small scale, with many items crafted and finished in-house by Sheridan and her assistant, Ida Jonsson. As her covetable leather bags touch down at Liberty, we swung by to see her in action…
How did you wind up in the world of design? When I was studying at Cordwainers I won a placement with Patrick Cox in his head office and I just stayed, then I left to work with Jonny Moke at World's End. That's when I started making and I thought that I could do it for myself.
I started out with hand-made leather jewellery - it was back in the '90s when chokers and things were in - and sold it at Janet Fitch. It launched there and then Whistles picked it up. I also had another company with my friend Helen Minns, who was a textile designer at Central Saint Martins, so we combined her shapes with my prints. That's how printed leather came about.
When did you go solo? In 2001. I had a sewing machine at the foot of my bed and would print and stitch the leather myself.
Where are your bags made today? By a team of women in a factory in Hoxton. We're really close to them, so it's nice.
Shop Kate Sheridan
"It's really exciting to see people in my stuff. I still get a buzz from it now. "
Some production happens here behind the counter, what does that look like? We put Giga Tote handles on here and we hand-make all of the smaller accessories. We also emboss here.
How do you create your prints? We use hand-drawings and manipulate them. Lots of them are based on doodles that we put into repeats. We reference architecture and lots of buildings.
Where do you source your materials? From the UK and EU. I mainly work with leather and heritage fabrics. Most of the leathers we work with are vegetable tanned, so they aren't made with any chemicals. They're plant-based.
"I'm primarily materials based, so I'll go sourcing leathers and then the rest comes from there."
What's your starting point when designing a new collection? We're quite strategic so we look at what's had good sell-through rate before, then we look at the mood for the season. I'm primarily materials based, so I'll go sourcing leathers and then the rest comes from there. Exhibitions and markets also come in, I'll go rummaging through old tat!
Ida and I design everything together and we start off with things we both like. We're really close to our customer base in a lot of ways. It's so direct with the shop and the market, so we feel like we know the people who shop from us. We often find ourselves saying, 'This person would absolutely love this'. We design so many different products, but it means it never gets boring.
The best kind of customer research! Any other sources of inspiration? People watching on Broadway Market is brilliant and I go to lots of gigs. I like to see other people's personal style.
How does it feel to see people wearing your pieces? It's really exciting to see people in my stuff. I still get a buzz from it now. My kids always spot them.
You stock other brands and art work in your store, why? Having been in the industry for such a long time, it just seemed like a natural thing to bring other brands in. Also, I know how difficult it is for start-up brands to get their foot in the door, so it's nice to be supportive.
Why did you decide to bring your bags to Liberty? When I first moved to London and looked in the shops, Liberty was the one I fell in love with. It's where I went to go to get my wedding shoes with my mum. I'm so happy to be stocked there.