I was scanning the streets around Covent Garden for peoples unique styles to photograph when I saw a stall with an outstanding use for recycling of old charity shop suits.
Step in the very savvy and elegantly dressed Edson Raupp at stall number 7 in Covent Garden Market who got the idea a while back to take old men's suits and turn those forgotten business relics and transfom them into some of the most glorious and ingenious carry items it for men and women to heft their personals around the city in style and luxury.
I asked Edson for some time to find out more about his business and the result is below.
How did you get into the business?
I have always made clothing and accessories for myself and when I first moved to London, in 1995, people would often comment favourably about my designs. In 1996 I started to make bags from jackets that I bought in charity shops which I then sold at Portobello Market. And later at Camden Market.
How long have you been making Suitcase bags and what obstacles did you have to overcome?
Over 16 years and I don’t feel that I had to overcome obstacles as such, rather that I realised that I would need to go through various stages to develop the designs and the business.
What is the process from collecting the suit, that you make the bags from, all the way through to selling the finished product?
These days I don’t need to visit charity shops very often to buy jackets as almost all my jackets are supplied by Oxfam who specially select the jackets for me.
I then check each jacket for any damage, replace pockets and buttons where necessary and then clean them.
I cut each jacket into the various parts that will form the different bags.
I then make the pockets that will be sewn into the linings of the bags.
Next I assemble the straps.
I then select the various components of a bag – sometimes mixing the parts from different jackets.
Lastly I sew the various parts together adding linings, straps and labels.
For some bags I will add additional buttons and labels (makers’ labels taken from the jackets) as decoration.
How many Suitcase bags do you make on average in a year?
I cannot give you annual number of bags but the amount is limited because I make each one myself.
What is your background in the fashion industry?
When young I used to help my father will small tasks in his tailoring business and later I studied Fine Art at University. There I was involved in costume design for theatre groups. I also at that time designed and sold jewellery.
What is your proudest moment of your career?
I am most proud when I spot someone in the street wearing one of my bags.
What advice do you have for designers starting a business from new?
My advice to new designers;
Keep making changes (big and small) to your designs as there is always something that can be improved. I am lucky that my Suitcase Bag business alone is able to give me a living. However from time to time I take on various design work often unrelated to fashion. I imagine I will continue to make the bags (every year finding chances for small refinements to the designs) for as long as people want to wear them.
I heartily recommend searching out the bags and Edson himself on stall number 7 in Covent Garden Market, London. And for the sake of courtesy mention that you heard of him through this post and see for yourself the incredible work he does on these artisan handmade suit bags.
The 'Suitcase' bags average around £45 which I think ridiculously good value considering you can pay hundreds for a machine made fashion bag with whom you will never have the pleasure of meeting the maker let alone the designer himself.
I myself have one of his bags. A fabulous yet understated grey mixed pattern creation that I have worn often since meeting Edson and want to thank him for his generous time in answering my questions. I look forward to seeing him again when my travels take me back past his stall.