Interview | Julia Dobson of Village England

Flitton in black | Village England | SS14 | UK fashion blog | Stylonylon

Ever since discovering British handbag brand Village England on disneyrollergirl’s blog last year, I’ve been developing a bit of a serious thing for their gorgeous but entirely useable bags. In a nutshell, the quality is excellent and the classic designs oh-so desirable for prices that won’t break the bank…

You can see me with my Cranleigh here and here and here, ahem! In the run-up to their SS14 launch, the lovely Julia Dobson – one half of the Village England team with Eddie Knevett – took time out from the AW14 showroom and Paris and London tradeshows to answer some of my questions. So excited, they will be available in House of Fraser and Anthropologie this year – fantastic news for this brilliant British brand.

Tell us about what inspired you to start Village England? What makes your perfect bag?
Most of my career has been spent working in fashion (Ed’s note: Julia was a senior manager for labels Celine and Bally at LVMH) and mostly with leather goods. LVMH gave me the opportunity to try beauty, but frankly it wasn’t for me and I wanted to return to fashion. I was on maternity leave when Eddie and I started talking about doing our own thing – he had been on the opposite side of the table when I was at Celine, and he was the head of Accessories at House of Fraser (thus knows a thing or two about handbags too). It seemed we could put a number of the pieces of the puzzle together with our various skills, and life in the Village began in earnest.

The name seemed obvious to us for what we wanted to achieve. We felt done with corporate life, and had met so many people who were exceptionally good at what they did AND were fabulous people – we wanted to create a community where we all shared the same values, and we express those values through our product.

The perfect bag is quite simply one you can rely on. It has to be beautiful, and suit your own style, whatever that is. The quality of materials has to be excellent, and it has to be well constructed so it will age beautifully – we believe in old fashioned value for money. The functionality on the inside must make it practical too, and convenient to use (pockets at a height so you can get your hands into it while it’s on the shoulder). The ability to rely on it really means you must be able to throw it on your shoulder and forget about it – knowing that it looks great. As my mother said, good haircut, good handbag, good pair of shoes and it doesn’t really matter what happens in between.

Cranleigh in bright orange | Village England | SS14 | UK fashion blog | Stylonylon

What’s coming up in the SS14 collection? News styles, colours?
Absolutely! For SS14, Eddie took his inspiration from English gardens – the flower beds you see at stately homes. Always bright and fun, with colour combinations that only a gardener would put together. The best-selling Cranleigh and Datchet are now available in a warm summer yellow and a bright orange, and then new styles – the slouchy Newlyn with two front pockets and the more structured Much Marcle tote are available in pale grey and red. There are also a new group in printed croc – lovely work totes which will transition beautifully to the weekend.

What wardrobe staples – clothes & accessories – can’t you live without?
I’m a jeans girl. If I need to dress up, it will be teamed with a jacket and statement jewellery, if not then tees and flip flops. I was lucky enough to meet Jo from Tales from the Earth, and I love her jewellery and the secret messages they contain. I love a good pair of boots – my current favourite is Acne’s Cypress ankle boots, and I have the Pistol boot in three colours. Shoes need to be comfortable. On a good day, I leave the house without baby snot on a shoulder or a jammy hand print on my thigh, but I normally have baby wipes in my bag for those days when my boys are just a bit quicker than I’m expecting…

Julia Dobson | Style Picks | Interview | UK fashion blog | Stylonylon

What’s on your clothes shopping list for spring right now?
I’ll be skipping the white, the cut-out and the crop trends this season…! But I’m liking the look of Rag and Bone’s Lee pant, this season’s oversized knits from Acne and just about everything from Isabel Marant’s SS14 runway show.

Anything else you’d like to mention?
SS14 will be Village England’s second collection, and we’re really lucky with all the feedback we have had thus far on our journey. We’ve launched House of Fraser this season, and we’ll be in Anthropologie from AW14. We are also having great success from international markets and we’ve now got stockists in Belgium, France, Monaco and Spain. We’re really pleased that the people we show the collection to all get the brand and what we’re trying to achieve, and really appreciate the details and that all our efforts to into doing the right thing for the person who will carry our bags. People all seem to appreciate the Englishness of the aesthetic, so we are feeling more and more blessed. It’s lovely in this English Village.

Cheveley in chocolate | Village England | SS14 | UK fashion blog | Stylonylon

A big thank you to Julia for such a brilliant interview – I can’t wait to see what else 2014 holds for Village England! The photos you see are from the SS14 catalogue – which is your favourite? I’ve fallen madly in love with the Flitton (top photo) as well as the Datchet!


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