How do you go from being a director of public sector contracts and European administration, to designing your own range of handbags? Career woman, mother and now designer, Claud Fürst takes a break from her busy schedule to give JewelStreet an exclusive preview of her collection and how she got to where she is today.
Based in Bristol, but commuting to London, Claud Fürst is well acquainted with working in the city. But when she tried to purchase a new laptop bag, she didn’t expect to end up designing her own. “I was one of the many people who commuted in and out of London, so when I started to look for a new laptop bag and couldn’t find one I liked, I decided to design and make my own, which acted both as a corporate bag and a fashion item.”
As a naturally creative person, Claud jumped at the chance of designing her own bag. “Friends of mine told me ‘You’re so creative anyway, just design your own bag’, so I did! I’ve always had a corporate job in the city, and I was never able to do something that is my true passion, which is why I am so grateful to have this opportunity.”
“It went from a crazy idea to international design registration which I received in 2015.” And now her debut collection is set to launch at the end of this summer.
Claud's first collection
Claud has created a refined collection of functional leather work bags based on her original design; a corporate yet stylish leather backpack with her signature, detachable clutch bag. “We all have long days at work, and I just wanted something I could use for work and then in the evening. After work you simply detach the clutch bag from the main bag, pop your essentials in and use it as an evening bag. Then the next day just simple reattach it and you’re ready for work again.”
For Claud, the quality of the bags is absolutely key. “It took me a while to find the right manufacturer, but it was so important to me to have the balance of good quality Italian leather with a very good British manufacturer.” High quality craftsmanship paired with a chic and timeless design means Claud’s bags are designed to last for years. “The whole fashion industry is changing nowadays for more sustainability, and people are happier to spend a bit more money on really high quality designs and products, rather than buy cheaper alternatives which you know you will have to repurchase.”
Claud’s range of leather bags are set to launch at the end of this summer.
The backpack is available in 3 core colours: black, brown and grey, plus a special baby pink collection. “I’ve already got orders for the backpack in baby pink, some of the ladies absolutely love it – it’s so interesting to see what people like!” The detachable clutch bags, which are also available separately with a long chain strap, come in a range of 10 colours to allow people to mix and match and create their own bespoke bag.
“We all have long days at work, and I just wanted something I could use for work and then in the evening."
Extensive testing all over the world has helped Claud create a bag which channels a chic aesthetic, whilst still fundamentally acting as a practical work bag. “I have work colleagues and friends who live all over the world: Bristol, London, New York, Boston, who have all been using and wearing the bags. It was really interesting to get all the different feedback, as the girls testing the bag in London and New York all wanted an extra pocket so they could have their phone and oyster card readily available – and a pocket for a brolly!”
From the very start of this whole process, positive feedback is what has motivated Claud. She shows us the very first bag she designed and explains, “I was flying somewhere and I went through security, and one of the guys working there said, ‘I have to say, I see thousands of bags everyday but that one is special’. I was really happy about that comment!”
“I’m really happy that after 20 years in a corporate job, I’ve now got the opportunity to do something creative.”
Where did it all begin?
Originally from Vienna, Claud has lived in Bristol for the past 16 years. “Even coming from a beautiful European city, I love it here in Bristol and I can’t see myself moving away.” And we can see why; while we sit in her beautifully renovated flat in the heart of Clifton village, Claud points out of a window just across the road to where her 8 year old son Laurence is currently at primary school. “It has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It's become a very international city and the quality of life here is great, plus it’s always nice to come back to Bristol for peace and quiet.”
“I’m really happy that after 20 years in a corporate job, I’ve now got the opportunity to do something creative.” When taking the plunge to move away from her financial role and pursue a more creative path, it was Claud’s mum who encouraged her to go for it. “I was sewing my own clothes from the age of fourteen, and I was also sewing clothes for friends at school, but I never went down that route. My mum worked as a seamstress at an atelier in Vienna, and she really encouraged me and taught me how to do fashion drawings and sew. If I have a question I still phone my mum up now!”
We also took the opportunity to talk to Claud about her jewellery style and the most important pieces of jewellery she owns.
Claud’s taste in jewellery reflects her style in general: chic, minimal and less is more. “I like to wear pieces that are fairly simple in design but effective when worn.” For Claud, wearing a unique piece of jewellery instantly elevates even the simplest of outfits. “I look for pieces which are different and not something you can find in a shop on the high street. It's pieces like that which make a big difference to my outfits.”
As with most of us, Claud tends to stick to her small collection and wear these pieces again and again. “I do have pieces that I’ve been given as gifts, and when I get them I think 'oh they are nice' but then I just never end up wearing them, and instead always end up going back to the pieces I actually like and bought for myself!”
With a mantra of quality over quantity, Claud often goes back to the same designers. “I often buy designer pieces because I like the style and I know it's good quality, and I tend to stick to them for a long time. I’m just a creature of habit, I’d rather save up and buy something special which I know I will get much more wear out of.”
As we delve further into Claud’s jewellery box it’s clear to see that Tiffany is one of her favourite designers. One of her most worn pieces is a fairly simple long beaded tassel necklace from Tiffany, which she bought herself. “Every year I buy myself a birthday present and this was one of them!” Her favourite ring is a multiple band, Russian-style ring also from Tiffany. “It’s a great everyday ring that you don’t need to wear anything else with.” When she took off the ring to show us, it revealed a delicate band moulded into the word ‘Love’. “This is something Laurence bought me a few years ago for Christmas, when I think he was around 6 years old.”
When asked what the oldest piece in her collection is, Claud pulled off a beautifully weathered bangle from her wrist. “It’s actually made from horn and I bought it in my first year of university. It cost me a fortune! I used all my pocket money up for it. At the time it was 500 Austrian shillings, which now converted, is only £25-30, but 22 years ago that was quite a lot of money! And I still love it and wear it now.”
So what’s next?
The collection is now in the final design stages, and set to launch at the end of this summer. Claud already has lots of back orders and stockists lined up, from a high end boutiques in Bristol to Amazon Fashion. “It’s going to be my summer job to look for more stockists, but I’ve just been overwhelmed with how much people like them and all the positive feedback I have received.”