Meet Katy and John: Founders of LPOL

Meet Katy and John: Founders of LPOL - KANKAN

Can you give us a little intro as to who you are to set the picture…

We are Katy and John, Founders of LPOL, formerly known as Lost Property of London. We design and make small batch collections of leather and upcycled bags from our studio in East Sussex and workshops in London and Kent. Day to day, Katy takes on the role of Creative Director, responsible for all design, development and production. John takes on the role of Brand Director, responsible for marketing and advertising the LPOL brand. But as a husband and wife team, we share and crossover on many of these responsibilities, so we stay flexible and adaptable!

We know you are hugely knowledgeable about your craft, how did this come to be?

Katy has a background in textile and product design, so her experience and knowledge of leather and fabric has been built up and refined over many years - from art college through to jobs she held in prominent London-based interior and fashion design agencies. In particular, whilst working in the design studio for Liberty of London, Katy understood what was required to design products for a discerning audience who valued understated, considered design items, which embodied handmade quality with an increasing focus on sustainability. Having set up the business in 2009, much of our knowledge and expertise has been built up through meeting our network of suppliers and leather craftspeople, who have imparted their knowledge and skills to us. It’s that hands-on, intimate experience that has really empowered us and given us that instinctive feel for our craft - we feel very lucky to be connected to this wonderfully small, passionate and skilled community.

Can you share more behind the mission of why you do what you do?

We quite simply want to design bags of quality and integrity - bags which use natural, responsibly sourced materials, bags which are crafted locally and made to last so that wearers can enjoy them for years to come (and even to hand them down to the next generation). We are obsessive about not wasting material, so we use up everything we find around us. Surplus, offcut, deadstock, end-of-line material is our first port of call, so we often aim to design specifically to give that material a second life in the form of a handbag, tote, rucksack or keepsake bag. Above all we are determined to produce responsibly, and we know our customers really care about that provenance, and so together we see this as defining a new sense of luxury - one that is fundamentally considerate and sustainable that appeals to both people and the planet.

What has been the biggest business 1) success and 2) challenge you’ve had to overcome that you are most proud of?

Our biggest business success and challenge, truly, has been surviving the pandemic and all the financial and emotional pressures that presented. We feel we have built extra reserves of resilience and determination to keep evolving the brand for our customers, and it was so heartwarming and moving to have had their incredible loyalty through those lockdowns in order for us to achieve that. We also found that in those toughest of times, we personally had to dig deep creatively to express the brand in new ways to stay relevant, desirable and more future proof. Our new Zero-Waste Dinky handbags and Zero-Waste artworks embody that effort.

What does the creative and development process look like at LPOL?

It’s different every time! Which is what makes it exciting. Because each product is different, it needs a unique approach, so we embrace that. That said, there is of course a rough flow; where we start with an idea, then a sketch, a mood board, material sampling, then two or three stages of prototyping and product testing. But as we mentioned before, the whole sequence often gets turned on its head…for instance, we might be organising our material stocks one day and we uncover some vintage fabric from the archives, and we think that would make a dozen wonderful tote bags! Or we see a brilliant piece of architecture or furniture design and that inspires a new shape. So it’s typical of most creative processes, whereby we allow ourselves to be guided by those spontaneous moments of inspiration.

Are there any people/business you’d like to give a shout out too? Who else (doing amazing things with ethically-minded leather and upcycled goods) inspires you most?

We really admire Jules Haines, founder of Haines Collection - a pioneering platform for the resale of unwanted textiles, wallpaper, lights and accessories that would most likely be headed for landfill. On a similar theme, we love Katy Takla, who makes beautiful cushions from deadstock and remnant fabrics. From a pure design point of view, we love Muller Van Severen. Run by a husband and wife, they design minimalist seating and lighting for the home. We have one of their armchairs in our bedroom to create a cosy reading corner.

Can you share with us about your relationship with nature/being outside and what the natural world means to you?

Well we moved to East Sussex from London in 2020, and we’re now living in an old Farm House surrounded by fields and farmland. We can look out the window and see deer, sheep and cows. In fact, our neighbour owns 20 peacocks, so yeah, it’s pretty wild down here! We have always seen nature as something absolutely pivotal in our lives. We both grew up in the countryside and it definitely helped to shape our characters and our values. It certainly has given us our appreciation and passion for quality natural materials, and a strong belief that whatever we produce must be kind and not damaging to the environment. Thinking about it, living and playing in fields and woods as kids, also taught us how to be self-sufficient, frugal and inventive, in terms of how we used and relied on materials, energy and time. We both remember times where we would disappear off on weekends with friends across fields or into woods to build dens and bows and arrows, and be back home just in time for dinner!

When you are looking for a new home, what is the one thing that is a must-have?

When we were looking for our new home, the must-have was a horizon. This might sound a bit odd, but coming from London where we could only see the sides and backs of others buildings, we wanted to find a home where we can look out to a horizon line; where land meets sky!

What is the one smell that triggers a memory - what is that memory?

For John, it’s the aroma of sawn wood. We’ve been having some renovation work done to the house and the smell transports him to the design workshops at school and art college where he worked on product design projects.

What actions have you done recently to help your carbon footprint?

We are proud to partner with Ecologi as part of our carbon reduction strategy. Every month, our subscription and sales contributions fund projects that remove more greenhouse gasses than our own carbon footprint puts in. Plus, for every bag we sell, one tree is planted in a reforestation project that's happening right now.

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