We met Catherine Ellis of Hill & Ellis to talk about bags, Bromptons and being British-made.
When did you start making bike bags and what motivated you to do it?
Hill & Ellis was launched in 2013 but the seed was sown in 2012 just after the London Olympics. With nothing on the market that worked as a stylish bag on and off the bike we decided to address that problem. We have been working on designs that look as good on the arm as they do on the bike ever since, so you can cycle to work and walk straight into the board room with style. Since then we have launched a British Made collection, saddle bags, a new lined version and we have other designs in the pipeline.
What’s the best thing about your bags?
The best thing about our bags is the design. We have worked really hard to integrate the cycle-y features into the bag so they work with the design and not against it. We wanted the pannier hooks to be hidden so that it is comfortable to carry when worn on the body, and this means that as soon as the bag is off the bike you wouldn't know it was a pannier. We have also incorporated other features, such as a waterproof rain cover for rainy rides and reversible reflective features to improve visibility at night. The bags are all crafted in beautiful leather and what we find really exciting about the bags is that people love the designs whether they are cyclists or not and we have fantastic feedback from customers when they receive them as they didn't expect the quality and detailing to be so impressive.
How important is being British Made to what you guys are about?
Being British Made is really important to us which is why we wanted to design a collection that is made here in the UK, in Hackney to be exact. We wanted bags that reflected the London cycling culture and the style and craftsmanship of bags made here is something to be treasured.
Do you remember the first bike you had? What was it like?
Yes it was a blue with two wheels and I loved it. Cycling without my stabilisers was the first moment I really remember feeling free. The wind in your hair as I went downhill faster than I thought was sensible was so exciting, and I still get it even now. Though I imagine the hills are slightly bigger today - then, I suspect, the slope was more of a molehill than the Green Monster!
What do you make of London as a cycling city?
London is a great place to cycle around. There is traffic but for me it is all about planning the route so you can avoid most of it.. There are some beautiful back streets and biking down them is a pleasure as well as an adventure. Cruising around on your bike means you stumble across pubs, cafes and little spots in London that you would never had discovered if you weren't riding and I love the fact that I can just take a different road and see where it takes me ... just because.
London of course can be more cycle friendly and if you can get involved, support Space for Cycling, which is an amazing organisation pushing for better space and routes for cyclists. London has been dominated by cars for many years and it's time we took some space back for the cyclists. http://action.space4cycling.org/
Are you keen cyclists yourselves? What part does the bike play in your life?
Yes. We all cycle. I use my bike every day and it is my transport really. I cycle to work, to the park, to the cinema and often to the pub as well. It's a great way to get around town and it always brings a smile to my face. I am not a tubist but each time I get the tube instead of cycling I always wish I had travelled on my bike. It's just more pleasurable, even in the rain.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ridden your bike?
Through Paris at 7pm in the evening after cycling for three days across France. Crossing the Champs-Elysee was possibly the most dangerous part of the trip, as cars and motorbikes seemed to be coming at us from all directions, but seeing the gleaming beauty of the Eiffel Tower getting nearer was priceless. That and the glass of fizz we had at the end!
What's new for Hill & Ellis this season?
We are about to launch a bag designed for foldable bikes which fits onto the Brompton C Frame bar. We have just been sent the final sample and it is rather handsome, even if we do say so ourselves. It will be launched at the end of November so follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be the first to hear about these. We also need a name so if you have an ideas get in touch.
Cloud 9 Cycles stock a curated selection of Hill & Ellis British Made Bags. You can visit www.hillandellis.com to find out more.