This week, Perspectives talks to Charlotte LeFebvre of Bush Princess. Bush Princess focuses on handmade leather goods which are ethically produced in Kenya and use the finest locally sourced materials.
1. Please tell me a little about your background
I am of Swedish origin and I lived in France for 20 years before moving to Kenya with my family in 2008. I have always worked in the fashion industry and I was the Artistic Director of the French bag brand "Terre de Bruyere" before moving to Kenya.
2. Why did you start Bush Princess and why the name Bush Princess?
I started Bush Princess in 2009 after a year looking into the Kenyan fashion scene to see what was missing. I noticed the gap was handbags and sandals that were modern in style but handmade in Kenya as I found the workmanship was very good here.
3. Bush Princess is handmade in Kenya. Tell us what that means to you.
I am proud to tell the world that the bags are handmade in Kenya. For me, it is much more personal to buy a bag and know it is really handmade, in a small workshop where everybody is a part of the process. I have 7 people involved. And all brass accessories are handmade with recycled brass.
4. What challenges have you faced sourcing leather and manufacturing in Kenya?
I found it difficult for a few years as the export of raw leather from Kenya to China was more profitable for the local tanneries and therefore the local market was suffering in terms of getting good quality. Today, the Chinese and European market are down, so it is less of a struggle!
5. All your colours are custom dyed, how do you go about selecting the colours for each season?
Yes all the colours are custom made, I have a few colours that are available all year round and are always in the collection. Then I get inspired by European fashion and my travels in Kenya.
6. Recently, you started incorporating beadwork into your designs. What informed that decision?
I have always had a little bit of bead work mostly on the smaller items. For example, the Laikipia purses have a beaded disk in the middle. That was one of the first styles I did and they represent the excellent craftsman ship of the Maasai women. Then, I incorporated the beading in my Tracy bag.
7. Ichyulu is currently stocking the Tracy Bag. How long does it take to produce one bag? How do you start?
I start by making my pattern, then it is worked on in my work shop. After that, I decide what kind of leather and the colour will be used.... That will take 2-3 days and then they are cut, stitched and finished which can take 1 day!
8. What's your favourite Bush Princess design?
My favourite, difficult to say I like all my designs I always design a bag that I want to wear. Sometimes it can be 4 per month.... I have a lot of bags :)
9. What does the rest of 2016 hold for Bush Princess?
I am going to England and to France to find some nice locations for pop up stores in 2017. I am also going to be a part of the TDS store in Two Rivers, that will hopefully be opened in October 2016.
Thank you Charlotte for speaking to Ichyulu!
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