At MADE TO LAST we are in the privileged position of getting to work with some of the most dynamic and thought provoking businesses and people in the UK.
This post is a chance for you to glance inside the world of Catherine, the Founder of Hill & Ellis who make some of most fabulous cycling bags we have ever seen.
Hill & Ellis have been making incredibly well designed and functional cycling bags since 2012. If you enjoy navigating on 2 wheels then please read on….
What do you make and why?
We make handsome bike bags for stylish cyclists. The company was set up after a long, fruitless search for a good looking bike bag that suited life at work as well as on the bike. With nothing out there, we decided to set up a company to address the problem and now we have a large collection to suit many different tastes.
We know your products are great, you know your products are great but how can they know?
All our bike bags have been made to look good. They are crafted from the most attractive materials we could find: bold coloured satchel leather, with nickel coated brass buckles and the best hooks in the business.
As well as being designed for looks they are also made with hidden functionality just for the cyclist which is something we have really strived for.
The spring loaded hooks are hidden so when you are off the bike no-one would know it’s a pannier, there are reversible reflective features for better visibility at night, leather padding to protect the bag on the bike and a waterproof rain jacket for rainy cycling.
Whereabouts does your manufacturing take place?
Our bags are made in a workshop in London by experts who have worked making beautiful bags for years & years (& years!). As a London based company the fact that they are only cycling distance away is great and it certainly reduces our carbon footprint!
What is the toughest part of the product development process for you?
The toughest part for me is sourcing. Finding materials you want to use is like a Magical Mystery Tour of suppliers and samples with each company leading to another, usually in a totally different part of the country. Eventually you find the treasure though, and the material is just perfect for the design.
What is the most enjoyable part of the process of product development for you?
The designing is the most exciting aspect, although also nerve racking. Moving a bag from 2D drawings to the actual product always feels like a massive leap.
Going to the workshop to see the sample for the first time is like meeting an old friend. You don’t entirely remember what they are meant to look like, and you’re not sure if you will actually get on, but so far I have always fallen in love with them again on first sight.
Do you have any new products/ranges planned for the next year or so?
Yes, we are currently developing a range of canvas bags, in an array of different colours. We can’t tell you too much about them right now as it is all top secret but we are very excited about the designs and the new style of technical fabrics we are using.
What products or people have helped to inspire you to create the products that you do?
Cycling is our big inspiration; different cyclists use their bikes in different ways and need bags which work for their style. We are constantly striving to satisfy this. Bike rides are also very inspiring – like a long bath they give you time to think about the world around you and look at colours and patterns from the road.
Finally as a bag company as much as a bike bag company we always have a firm eye on the high street and trends that are developing from the catwalk.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know
Two years ago I cycled to Paris, with a friend & two bikes (1 each!).
We didn’t have a support car, anyone taking our stuff ahead of us, or in fact any sat/nav or GPS gadgets, which meant we got lost quite a lot.
We took everything we needed for the journey in just two Hill & Ellis panniers, one each.
They worked perfectly and even suited our celebratory night out in Paris when we made it 3 days later.
It was totally amazing, tough (France is not as flat as people tell you it is!) but amazing. The details of the trip are on the blog if you want to read more about our route.
What do you wish we had asked you?
“Have you done the Dunwich Dynamo Bike Ride?”
Well, I’m so pleased you asked – yes I have.
It’s another amazing bike ride that takes place over night all the way from London Fields in Hackney, to the little town of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast.
It was a difficult ride – mainly due to the lack of sleep, the darkness and my inability to take a waterproof jacket but it was absolutely beautiful.
You just follow little twinkly red lights of the bikes in front, through the winding country roads all night.
Locals along the route open up their houses for you to offer the weary tea and bacon sandwiches.
A must if you fancy exploring the english countryside … although don’t trust the weather report!
Which product in your range do you personally use the most and why?
I have used all of the range at various times as I like to test the bags thoroughly both on and off the bike before committing to them. I am currently using the Professor bicycle bag as I love the navy and tan combination, and it fits my laptop and work books perfectly.
I also love the new bright orange Jasper bike pannier as the colour is so bold and fun.
Thank you to Catherine for taking the time to answer our questions. If you are keen to find out more about Hill & Ellis bags then please head over to our cycling bags page and take a look.