PIA AKERS interviews Fran Timpson, the designer behind Sweetheart Design bags, a Sunshine Coast-based company producing one-off bags that are pieces of art.
What first inspired you to design bags? I needed to make something while I was waiting for commissions as an artist. Clothing comes in different sizes, which is hard to produce on my own, so bags seemed a logically step. I also have lots of small bits of fabric, which are great to use in bag making. It really makes each one individual.
What made you decide to start your own business? I needed a way to sell my bags. They were piling up in my studio!
Have you had any previous work in the fashion industry before you started designing bags?
I have an art and design background. My degree was in graphic design and before that I worked in display design. I have always created and made my own clothes. I just use textiles now instead of print.
Do you have plans to expand your business?
Not really plans, I am just always making new things. I am keen to keep the “made in a small studio in Buderim” idea. And as each bag is different it would be hard to mass produce, which really doesn’t interest me. It’s the process of creating that interests me, I think that’s the artist in me rather than the business women.
You express to your buyers that your bags are made in Australia, why do you think this is very important to add into your marketing?
It’s important because so much is massed produce in China and India but I do like to emphasise the “handmade by me” in a small studio in Buderim. I think people are looking for something a little bit different.
Who is your target market for your bags or do you make a variety of bags to suite different ages and personalities?
I really don’t have a target market, but each bag does look very different. It really depends on your own personal style, I like to think of them as a bit of fun.
Are your bags great for using every day? Yes, you can fit your diary and purse in them.
I have noticed that your bags are all the same design, why do you prefer to just change the colours and the different materials for your bags?
I have lots of different shapes and sizes; you just haven’t seen them yet.. That design is my most popular.
When you are looking for different bits and pieces to use in your bags, where do you go to find these materials?
Charity shops or people give me odd bits of fabric that they may have had for years at the back of a cupboard. Ebay is quite a good source, especially for antique mother of pearl buttons. I have been collecting for years. Some women have a shoe thing, for me it’s fabric.
Where can customers purchase your bags?
At the moment, only at Soul Diva Boutique, Buderim, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. www.souldiva.com.au
Are your clients able to buy your bags online?
Not yet but I soon hope to have a website soon and people can always contact me via email: [email protected]
Tell us about the studio in which you work?
I have just moved from the UK and given up my lovely studio in my back garden. I now work from my garage but I have made it into a place in which I like to be and because the weather is so great I can have the garage door open. Long gone are the days of working in a hat, scarf and gloves because it’s so cold.
When you work with materials what is your favourite fabric to work with and why?
If I didn’t love the fabric, I wouldn’t use it. It has to inspire me or it goes back on the shelf.
What do you enjoy the most about designing your own bags?
The design process is the most enjoyable bit. It feeds my need to create, but the biggest high is seeing them out and about on someone’s arm. It brings a big smile to my face.