What did the beginnings of Natalie Dennis look like?
In 2003, I started a little brand called Natalie Dennis. Creating all the handbags at home gave me a perfect opportunity to test out my style my handwriting, which is the signature curve.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
When I was three or four years old.
What is your earliest design memory for your brand?
My earliest memory of my brand is designing my own range of handbags for sale at London’s Portobello Market at the age of 21 in 2003.
“We want to make products that will stand the test of time, that will be never out of date, and that will not wear out. Future heirlooms that can be passed down from generation to generation.”
What made you want to design handbags?
In 1998, I first studied clothing/fashion and I quickly realized that handbags were going to be massive. I was always interested in 3-D structures within nature, so I felt like it was a perfect area for me. I won a competition judged by the founder of Red or Dead Wayne Hemmingway, he suggested I go to the London College of Fashion and ask them to create a course for me, as one didn’t exist at the time.
How would you describe the style of your brand?
Timeless, sophisticated, elegant, and luxurious.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in nature, 3-D structures within nature are very interesting to me. I’ve also traveled to over 100 countries, as I am particularly interested in architecture.
When was your first industry experience and how did it impact you?
My first industry experience was with a company called Tula. At that time, it was one of the largest companies in Europe for accessories. I worked on their own named range, but I also worked on creating the first designs for their then-new brand, Radley. I helped design some of their very first handbags. I found this experience incredibly helpful. It helped me figure out exactly where I wanted to place myself in terms of which kind of company.
What is your favorite part about designing?
My favorite part of designing is making the prototypes. I really like the challenges of creating something original whilst retaining commercial value.
What brand values are most important for Natalie Dennis?
Originality is key followed by brilliant making. Handbags that will stand the test of time and that will not become dated or worn out. We would like our customers to choose our bags because they like the design and it makes them feel good. We are also working with recycled leather at present. I’m testing out vegan leather too from the top makers in Italy. In addition to this, we hope to launch a new product soon where the customer will be able to update the handbag without buying a new handbag.
Charity. We support the Sutton Night Watch Homeless charity, which was set up to support and raise awareness for homeless people facing addiction, abuse, vulnerability, and mental health issues.
What was the toughest circumstance you overcame when just starting out your business?
I am extremely dyslexic and have struggled immensely. I could not read and write until my 20s.
How important is sustainability to your brand? What sustainable measures has Natalie Dennis taken to better the environment?
Sustainability is incredibly important to our business. We want to be part of the future solution for fashion and not another problem. We are currently working with recycled leather and also vegan leather through certified producers in Italy, through the highest certified suppliers. We are working on a prototype at the moment of a handbag that hopefully the customers will be able to update without buying a whole new handbag. We want to make products that will stand the test of time, that will be never out of date, and that will not wear out. Future heirlooms that can be passed down from generation to generation.
“Natalie Dennis is original quality, luxury, well-made made in Italy, and a timeless work of art.”
What sets your brand apart from the rest?
Our designs are totally original. We work with the very best artisans in Italy and our factories have all been independently audited for diversity, sustainability, and low carbon footprint. Everything that is in our products is of the very finest quality. Our factory is a member of SEDEX and is SMETA II certified and powers itself by solar panels that were installed in 2011. We don’t cut corners and we want to deliver a truly luxury handbag.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a new designer?
My advice would be do not start your business unless it is something that you are absolutely obsessed with, and you absolutely love because that’s what you need to be able to succeed.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
Being able to produce a luxury handbag out of Italy to the very highest standards. There’s a lot of competition out there, but I think our products stand out because they are so well-made and so well-designed. Our supply chain is all Italian and has been audited to the very highest standards.
What do you envision for the future of your brand?
We are seeing lots of interest from international markets, and we plan to expand into those areas soon.
What should customers expect to see next from Natalie Dennis?
More original, exciting designs that we are currently working on.
What is the most important thing you would like your brand to be recognized for?
Natalie Dennis is original quality, luxury, well-made made in Italy, and a timeless work of art.