Heidi Mottram is internationally renowned for desirable bags and purses, which are individually designed in London, then produced from fairly traded and hand crafted, finest eel skin leather. A London College of Fashion and Central St Martins graduate, with experience working with major international designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Matthew Williamson, Heidi was one of the first designers in the UK to design accessories with eel skin.
You have become the renowned and acclaimed designer for the finest eel skin leather creations. How did you start working with this material to create your designs? Why do you prefer it over other conventional materials such as cow, crocodile or snake?
I knew about eel skin from a very young age as my mother had a small eel skin purse. It was brightly coloured and sumptuously soft. I loved it!
In my later life I happened upon the leather again and instantly wanted to use it in my own designs. I made clothing, shoes and even used it in my art works. Through this I developed my first accessories collection. I wanted everyone to experience this amazing leather.
I love eel skin as it is an exotic skin but also a bi product of the food industry. The leather is so buttery soft and durable.
We only use exotic leathers that are thrown away. Either the creature sheds the skin or the skin has come from the food industry. We are eco and sustainability aware.
We have introduced other ‘eco leathers’ to sit alongside our eel skin range. We are now using salmon, perch, poulard (chicken leg) to name a few.
Why can’t luxury exotic skins be eco aware and available to all?
How did your dream of becoming a vet change to fashion and design?
I am an animal lover. I grew up in the country surrounded by animals. My second love was art. I would sit in fields drawing, surrounded by our animals. I initially wanted to be a vet so that I could help animals.
As the years went on at school I was enjoying the sciences less and less and loving art more and more. I took art for granted and did not see it as a career because I did not see it as work.
When it came to career decision-making I realized how lost I would be if I did not take the creative route.
I still love animals and support many animal charities. This is also why I will never use skins from creatures harmed purely for vanity.
How has working with major international designers influenced your career?
It has given me a great insight into the fashion industry and broken any illusions I may have had as a student. It was a great experience.
How did you decide to start your own label in 2007?
My first job after graduating Central St. Martins was as a fashion pr. It really wasn’t for me. I missed being creative and did not stay in the job long. I decided to set up my own brand. I had been making, designing and selling my art and my designs anyway since 2004 and felt I should make it my career.
You design handbags, purses, clutches, iPad wallets, etc. Is there any piece you enjoy most working on?
I love clutch bags. Because the skins I use are super soft, the clutch bags almost become a comfort to carry. My customers and also myself almost end up hugging the clutches. They are just so tactile! I believe a bag should feel great to hold as well as look good.
What is your stronger source of inspiration?
I find inspiration in many areas. When things are tough, I am inspired by my mom and my partner to keep fighting. Inspiration for my designs often come from nature but also from life events. If it is something I can connect with on a personal level, then the inspiration will flow.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Still having my own brand after nearly 5 years. The economy is not at its most stable, and sadly businesses are closing. It can be quite scary.
What did winning Business of the Year in 2009 mean to you?
I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat! I felt so proud. It gave my business recognition.
Who would you like to see using one of your designs?
I would love to see a major designer using one of my bags. Another creative person’s recognition is always great.
Personally, I love seeing all of my customers enjoying their Heidi Mottram bag or purse. The great feedback always makes my day.
How long does the preparation of a season’s collection take you?
Sampling takes 2 to 3 months to finalize. Designs and research prior to this take about 2 months also.
Is there any piece that you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A statement clutch bag can be used with any outfit. Dress up or down, they can be more flexible than a big handbag.
How have your designs evolved over the years?
Over the years new skins and textures have been added. I think the collection has become more sophisticated and grown up but still fun.
What can we expect from Heidi Mottram in the next 5 years?
We are constantly searching for more exotic ethical skins to use. Useful materials are being thrown away and ending up in landfills.
We are planning on developing a collection for men.
The plan is to grow the business further and continue to make the business greener and greener.
What would you ask yourself that we haven’t asked you in this interview?
Who is your fashion hero?
I adore Vivienne Westwood. I love the mixture of high quality garments blended with British eccentricity. The patterns to make her clothing are incredible. A lot of skill is required.
Having met and worked for Vivienne, I am an even greater fan. She is a lovely person to talk to. I was so nervous to meet her but she made me feel at ease. She is quirky and interesting but also very kind. I love that.