Introducing Taylor Yates: The understated luxury bag company
Taylor Yates is an understated luxury bag company, centring themselves around familial values, social responsibility and sustainability. The abstract minimalistic bags are designed in Ireland where much of the inspiration is taken from the surrounding environment of the North Coast.
We talk to the mother-daughter duo, Karen and Ellen Yates, to discuss the inspiration behind the names of each bag, what sustainability means to the brand and their latest drop!
How did Taylor Yates begin? Has fashion always been something you two have bonded over?
Ellen and I have always shared our interest in fashion, and I suppose it something all mothers and daughters’ bond over. Although fashion and retail surrounded me growing up, I never felt it was an option for me. I went on to do my degree in Business and Marketing and then went to work for a large manufacturing company in Northern Ireland. The job helped me build up a wealth of experience in both business and fashion and I knew it was something I really enjoyed. It was Ellen’s enthusiasm that gave us the push to turn our conversation into the brand Taylor Yates is today.
We are so lucky to get to work together and although it can sometimes be a challenge, the combination of Ellen’s fresh ideas, her understanding of current trends and my experience of design, manufacturing and running a business means we can usually make good choices together.
So how did we begin, a t-shirt business, a lecture in ethics in marketing, a changing world where people need brands to be more transparent. The realisation that I was looking for something that was missing in the market. A conversation with Ellen, and the design of the first bag.
What role do you both have within the brand?
We are still quite a new business and as a start-up that means every day will bring something new and a new job title to add to the list! I still work full time running my marketing consultancy business and Ellen has just returned to University to finish her degree after taking a year out to develop Taylor Yates. It takes determination, resilience and a lot of hard work to be in any business today and together we share the workload, working late into the evenings and weekends as it’s our passion. Just recently, We’ve hired our first new team member to help with design and product development! We are really excited to have a new skill set on board to help us create beautiful products with people, planet and purpose at the centre of our design process.
Taylor Yates bags are named after the strong women who you grew up around Karen, what elements of the bags are inspired by these women and how?
The attitude of these women inspired the essence of the Taylor Yates brand. They were always doing something, creating, working hard and looking after family. It’s for this reason we wanted each bag to serve a beautiful purpose to help transform lives and give women choice. These women have inspired Ellen and myself throughout our design process. The first collection was made up of the bags we both wanted to carry but couldn’t find – a soft tote, a stylish hobo, its’ mini version, a sporty drawstring and the perfect pouch. Therefore, Alice, Doris Clutch, Mary, Mavis and Tilly were born.
Like these women, each bag has unique characteristics, but they are all related through their understated, timeless style. For example, Alice and Tilly from our original collection are inspired by Karen’s nana and mum. You can clearly see the special mother-daughter relationship when looking at these two bags side by side. They are both transitional from day to night as well as from one season to the next. They have been thoughtfully designed to complement any wardrobe and add a statement of understated luxury.
Much of the inspiration for the shades of the bags is taken by the North Coast in Ireland, what shade and style would be your go-to?
Our colour range and fluid shapes are inspired by the stunning north coast of Ireland that we live on. It is hard not to be influenced by the beauty of the sea, sky and land that produces some amazing natural hues!
Honestly it depends what day it is! The great thing about all of the colours and styles in our range is that they are understated, iconic and timeless. We love Mavis and Agnes for day to day, they are both so easy and big enough for a laptop which is very important for us. Tilly, Doris and Frances are brilliant for going out to dinner or to a wedding. Our favourite colours are definitely the Petrol and Storm but again it all depends on the outfit too!
When designing the bags, what was the most important element for you both in terms of design?
It would have to the quality of the materials we use. When we first set out to develop a range of soft leather bags we were told ‘you can’t make bags from that leather’ so we accepted the challenge and set on the journey to create the range we have today. Before beginning Taylor Yates, we struggled to find alternatives to the stiff, structured, plastic looking leather bags that dominated fashion. We specifically wanted to design a bag that would embody beautiful, understated luxury and our leather is core to each product. The leather influences the fluid shape of each bag because it is so soft. It enables us to create contemporary shapes and folds that are often not possible with standard leather.
For SS20 you’ve introduced two new shades, Forest Green and Mocha. Do you plan on introducing any new colour palettes in the near future?
Over the last 3 years we’ve worked hard to develop our core colours; Petrol, Plum and Black that remain iconic and timeless. For 2019 we introduced Storm and Ice to the collection and now for 2020 we will be introducing Forest Green and Mocha. We don’t develop colours based on trends or seasons but rather we thoughtfully gather inspiration from the hues found across the stunning north coast of Ireland that we live on.
We are currently loving Cognac tones and are pulling together mood boards that will help us develop a colour true to Taylor Yates’ brand DNA.
Do you both have a favourite piece from the new drop?
We’re so excited for the new drop! We are both really proud of Elsie.
EY – She was inspired by the vintage style of the Karen’s aunt Elsie. Drawing inspiration from a 90s velvet bag, our British leather enables us to capture the soft structure with a contemporary feel. The versatile design of the magnetic fastening and optional strap means Elsie can be worn as a small, pleated shoulder or clutch bag. She’s the perfect size to hold your essentials for the night ahead – lipstick, purse and she has an internal zip to keep your keys safe. Elsie to us is the perfect bag that you will just want to hug all night long!
KY– We are also super excited about Norma, named after my mum. She’s our reimagined, contemporary version of a baguette bag from my 90’s collection. She’s really cool! We hope everyone will love her as much as we do.
As a proud sustainable brand, what does sustainability mean to you both?
From the beginning we both knew we wanted to build a brand with a purpose. Sustainability to us means taking the time to prioritise our 4 Ps; People, Planet, Profit and Purpose, at the heart of all decisions.
EY – For me I am conscious of the effect that everything, especially the fashion industry has on the planet and the world that we live in and I think it is so important to be aware of the impact that you are having as a business as well as a consumer. We source our leather as a by-product of food production in the UK, where it is tanned and then handmade into our bags so everything – as much as possible – is local and we can control our impact to a point. We are always working to be more sustainable and we are currently looking at packaging and alternatives that we can use which are more eco friendly.
KY – I’m really interested in the idea of conscious consumerism and people buying quality, well-made products to last rather than just throw away fashion. I also want to build a social good business that gives back and helps girls around the world understand that they can do and be anything they want to be.
What piece of advice would you give to brands trying to be more sustainable?
When we started Taylor Yates 3 years ago, we were told not to focus on sustainability as it would limit our audience and affect our brand but we carried on as we believed it was a crucial part of who we are. Our advice would be to research as much as possible in the environmental and social impact your product has, question each design and business decision and strive to be better. Choose quality and style over trends and fast fashion.
Finally, what’s your plans for the future of Taylor Yates?
KY – We are currently working on our first circular economy collection using the waste leather from our main collection, which may include some menswear pieces. Ultimately, we would like TY to be known as a brand with people, planet and purpose at the centre of everything we do. We would love to be able to create a capsule collection of clothing at some point in the future too.
EY – I think the development of our circular economy collection will be so great when it is finished and it will let us expand our audience more. I want to see us grow our following and to create a real community of people all over the world. I also want us to have a presence in New York and London as well as at home whether that’s through other retailers or in our own locations – it would be amazing.
To shop the brand or for further information, visit tayloryates.com.