Feature: Harper The Label — 09.08.21
A Collection Of Timeless And Sustainable Leather Bags
Clean leather, clean lines is the statement that draws you in to Harper the Label. Founded 2 years ago, the brand’s elevated ethics, designs and fluid core collection are stunning. The leather accessories – a visualisation of the ideas curated by founder Claire Harper – meet at the balance between aesthetic and ethics. This works effortlessly, contrasting against the common trade off we see between the two amongst ‘’fast fashion’’ brands, where the former is chosen over the latter.
What does this balance signify? How extensive and intensive is the design process, when there are wider concerns that need to be accounted for and maintained?
Claire Harper tells us her “ethos is woven into the three pieces I’ve designed so far. It informs every decision I make about minimizing waste with pattern pieces, and it was instrumental on my sourcing journey when I was looking for the perfect leather for us.”
Harper the Label’s Core Collection encapsulates 3 pieces: the crossbody, the clutch, and the backpack. Claire emphasises the label’s intentions and ethical approach, which has its place at the centre and forefront in the design process.
The core material, leather, has its own story. Leather products have been, for a long time, predominantly made using a process called chrome tanning. Although fast and cheap, the process involves the use of chromium sulfate. The result of this process is the production of chromium wastewater, made up of toxic amounts of ammonia, salts, chromium and dye. The subsequent environmental impacts are harmful and extensive, especially on local groundwater, soils and drinking water sources.
The material and making process for Harper the Label “only uses leather that is certified chrome-free and cured with the tannins from organic matter like seed pods, bark, and leaves.” Claire also mentions to us the hope to offer the entire Core Collection in both a low-impact, chrome-free cow leather and a plastic-free, vegan leather.
The 3 pieces are enduring, fresh, and when looking at the finer details, intricate. Led by a maker and designer with inspiration emerging from nature and our place within nature, the words embossed across the Core Collection embody this perfectly.
But in your hurricane, there is an open door, a soft sea.
These poetic words written by Claire are embossed on the Open Door Clutch, our favourite piece.
“There is a circularity inherent in hurricanes. We talk about the eye of a hurricane, the calm center of a destructive force, and I was envisioning someone preparing themselves to go outside and face whatever they need to face. I wanted to present a duality in the clutch, both a ripple and a stillness, and to say that it is normal and acceptable to be both of those things.” Struck by the idea when walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this nuanced element in the design of the Core Collection enhances the meaning of the pieces.
Although not something that Claire was set on initially, the Core Collection now stands as a permanent part of the label that will continue to grow. The decision arose from and was intended to align with the label’s ethos – timelessness and sustainability. As opposed to creating numerous collections to match seasons or trends, the 3 pieces represent luxury, sustainability, thoughtfulness and aesthetic. Claire’s hopes are that the label and it’s core collection find those who are more embedded in thinking, learning and shopping more conscientiously.
Each piece of the collection is connected through the distinct design in the material draping and folding, a subtle element which sets the label apart. Each piece portrays a different mood, and will find itself complementary to different individuals. The crossbody is Claire’s favourite piece, and was also the first piece designed for the label.
“The crossbody is still the piece that I wear the most, and it feels the most compatible to my lifestyle. I can’t wait to be able to travel again with it over my shoulder.”
Black, Walnut and Saddle make up the 3 colours that each piece comes in, curated by Claire so as to be loved and worn across the seasons. The colours are muted and minimal, and reinforce the timeless mood that reverberates throughout the brand. Each piece’s silhouette and aura is then simultaneously individual and complementary – the crossbody is simple, the clutch is playful, the backpack is useful.
The label’s five principles – clean leather, fair manufacturing, carbon offsetting, sustainable packaging, and inclusive hiring practices – exhibit Claire’s distinct approach to sustainability and inclusivity, without having to hold back on experimenting with design, shapes and aesthetics. Purposeful and conscious design then naturally arises, as pieces are designed “that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and that for me fill a void that I’ve run into.”
“Sustainable” brands seem to either fall into the category of greenwashing, misinformation and superficial sustainability, or into that of brands which are inaccessible due to elements such as cost and exclusivity. Harper the Label, derived from its awareness to work towards and enforce high standards, involves conscious thinking and decision making throughout.
The accessories are designed and made locally, the leather used abides by strict environmental regulations, and packaging is recyclable and compostable. One key element of designing and working as a sustainable brand is the connecting with and redefining of materials, works, research and ideas. Collaborative and community thinking is central and appreciated by Claire, who mentions gratitude for being part of a wave of brands who are “generous with their knowledge, their time, and their resources.”
Sustainability, and with it conscious buying, is completely respective and relative to each individual. The crux of it is being better able to see and understand where and how the product has been made and designed and map out the smaller, often hidden, elements that constitute the whole. As part of being inclusive and open, Claire believes “This choice is important: I believe that we all should be able to make our own decisions about what leather meets our standards, because what is right for me might not be right for you. At the end of the day, I want to provide information and the best options possible so that the customer can make an informed decision for themselves.”
In working with artisans and experimenting with design, Harper the Label will continue to grow. The Core Collection intends to be developed by Claire intentionally and thoughtfully, through limited-edition collaborations with designers, artists and brands. Claire hints that the Core Collection has become like “a series of artwork” that will continue to be added to over time. Designing hardware from recycled metals and using natural materials to paint leather are ideas that are currently flourishing in the mind of the founder. The Core Collection emits a timelessness and fluidity that radiates from each piece, meshing with the strong ideas that fuel the label’s approach to sustainability, transparency and stunning design.
Harper the Label is an ethical, sustainable leather accessories brand, with a Core Collection that radiates with a simplicity and fluidity. The founder Claire Harper is a designer, weaving mediums, experiences and organic forms of nature to design for a sustainable, impactful and creative future. IMAGES COPYRIGHT © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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