Glasshouse meets: Emily of Alfie Douglas

Launched in 2014, the London based family run company have been creating simple, functional, handmade goods crafted to last a lifetime. We caught up with Creative Director, Emily Hadden to find out about all things Alfie Douglas.

It’s refreshing to discover a company where emphasis is placed on process and organic development whilst delivering simple aesthetically pleasing design. The collection not only looks pretty, it’s sustainable, ethical and most importantly functional. We were curious to find out where it all began: “The Alfie Douglas concept to create quality goods in England was developed by my mother, Davida, and father, Simon in 2012 and officially launched in 2014, as a family business alongside myself (Emily) and my three sisters - Georgina, Charlotte and Jessica. The brand name comes from a family name. As a team we are Alfie Douglas.”

In house design and production in the Alfie Douglas studios and workshop
In house design and production in the Alfie Douglas studios and workshop

In a beautiful naturally lit West London studio the family run every aspect of the business in-house, from design to production, forging a creative hub of discovery and innovation. This collaborative way of working stems from the family’s professional and educational background “My sisters and I grew up in a creative environment as my Mum and Dad have owned creative businesses since we were very young. We all studied degrees in fashion, graphics and photography, however leather working was all self taught. It’s the combination of our skills that works as a team.”

The family/work dynamic lends itself to a balanced way of work that allows time for research, investigation and experimentation, playing a significant part in the product making process “Our team of ‘Alfie Creatives’ are constantly learning new skills used for raw material processing and assembly and finishing of products”. It’s this curious tendency that means multiple versions of the same bag are often produced until it meets the simple, yet powerful AD ethos of “making products that look good and work. And carry on working”.

"The first bag we created was the 'Alfie One' Structured bag - hence the name. It lead the way for our simple, clean cut designs and still stands in our current collection.”
“The first bag we created was the ‘Alfie One’ Structured bag - hence the name. It led the way for our simple, clean cut designs and still stands in our current collection.”

There is a distinct level of artistry and craftsmanship in the production of each individual element, where quality holds precedence. Products are made from leather using hides that are tanned with both organic and mineral processes and then finished with the highest quality zips, solid cast brass buckles and custom made leather toggles. Only the best methods will suffice when making the products. One of these methods is the traditional ‘saddle stitch’ technique because it is the best method of stitching two or more pieces of leather together - by hand sewing with this technique the bags will not unravel if one loop is broken.

Alfie Douglas products are made using traditional craftsmanship techniques
Alfie Douglas products are made using traditional craftsmanship techniques

“The process is very natural. All of our bags work as building blocks so each bag relates to one another, in the sense that they share common components. A new design is often a variation of something we have already created. We just vary the size, leather and fittings to create something completely new. Each product is designed for a purpose, whether that be holding your laptop or for riding a bike.”

Production of each bag begins when an order is placed on the websit
Production of each bag begins when an order is placed on the website

Although the main outlet for the collection is online, the entire process has a personal touch. Once an order is placed it is made within a minor production time to allow the bespoke bag to be made and finished by hand. “As soon as an order comes through we cut out the leather panels, and begin to build the bag; whether hand or machine sewn. Each fitting is then hand riveted. Every process is done by hand from start to finish in our own workshop in London.” The AD studio is not only where the products are crafted, but the family also open via appointment to take a look behind the scenes, view the collection and meet the family.

Customisation and adapation runs through the Alfie Douglas collection
Customisation and adapation runs through the Alfie Douglas collection

This personable approach doesn’t stop once a bag leaves the workshop. Most of the collection is equipped with customisation and adaptive elements like the distinctive ‘Motion Tab’ feature, which allows the bags to be worn in multiple ways without compromising on quality or style, as well as removable and adjustable elements, allowing for the customer to be part of the process in organically designing how the bag will be worn and making it their own. “The Alfie Douglas customer is an individual who doesn’t follow trends. They want fuss free designs that adapt to their lifestyle. They are willing to invest in quality and believe simple says it all.”

Collaboration with House of Sunny in 2015
Collaboration with House of Sunny in 2015

The ethos, designs and processes have grabbed the attention of many and seeing Alfie Douglas grow from strength the strength poses the question; what does the future hold for AD? “We are always working on new products, which we plan to release weekly rather than in seasons. We are currently working on some limited editions and have recently launched a collaboration with House Of Sunny (above). Next year you will be seeing many new products from Alfie Douglas….”

The collection is available to buy online on the Alfie Douglas website.

Words: Leanne Tamara.

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