Talking with Under Her Eyes
In our first Designer Interview of 2023, we are joined by founder Silva from Under Her Eyes, an independent fashion brand that specialises in leather accessories and sustainably crafted handbags for women.
How did your brand begin?
I worked in fast fashion for nearly 20 years and having witnessed what the fashion industry was doing to the world and the environment, I wanted to stop, reassess and do better.
Fast fashion is not sustainable and never will be. The passion went and boredom crept in. I needed to get out. The pandemic gave me the final kick in the bum and I got dumped by my last employer. The best dumping I’ve ever had. So after nearly two decades working for big fashion monsters, I started Under Her Eyes.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
Firstly, women, normal women from my everyday life, my women: Quincy, Talitha, and Dulwich boutique owner Dani to name just a few.
Secondly, paintings and art books. My husband is an artist and the house is full of art books and his paintings. We tend to go to art galleries quite a lot too. It’s a nice way to kill half an hour with kids and look at some beautiful art.
Drawing inspiration from the paintings of the female form, I managed to come up with one of the most complicated, but unique designs. Highly intricate and time-consuming to make, but I fell in love with it and there was no simplifying the design, no turning back. My bags are perfectly curved to compliment the shape of a woman’s body and celebrate it. It’s all about the curves.
How do you ensure your designs are ethical and sustainable?
Fast fashion is not sustainable and never will be.
There is nothing sustainable about making so much stuff that people will wear just once and then chuck away. This time more is not better.
My sustainability journey is just starting and there is so much learning, investigation, testing and research to be done. Through my various connections, I became part of Common Objective and Fashion Revolution’s project group called Small but Perfect, connecting and working with like-minded people and brands. Our mission is to create a fashion industry that is kind to our environment, workers, and consumers.
It’s not just about creating fashion that lasts forever. It is about quality but also about the products looking amazing and, when you’ve had enough of them, they are circular so there is no waste. What you take from the environment you give back!
So I’m starting small but aiming big. My mission is to make fashion for women who don't want to feel bad about looking good!!!
How are your products made?
The bags are designed to be circular.
For our first collection, we used vegetable-tanned leather, ethically and sustainably produced.
Our second collection is all about circularity. The bags are made out of waste. Yes, you read it right, they are made out of scraps of old leather that have been reused and turned into a new fabric. Eco leather. The bag’s lining is deadstock organic cotton from the 80s and each bag’s hardware can either be repurposed on another bag or a belt (the buckles are actually belt buckles) or melted and remade into new hardware.
The bags are made by the old sample maker I used to work with for Topshop Unique catwalks. He still has a factory up in Leicestershire and agreed to turn his very skilful hands to make my bags.
How do you source your materials?
Sourcing is a never-ending job.
I’m always learning new things through my lecturing at the London College of Fashion, and through being an engaged member of the Fashion Revolution and Common Objective organizations.
I only work with certified, small companies, who support the planet and its people and who I share my values with.
We are a small business supporting other small businesses!
How do you want someone to feel when they wear/use your designs?
Under Her Eyes makes fashion for women who don’t want to feel bad about looking good.
It’s not just about brands making less and making it better, but also educating our customers that the way fashion is consumed now is not sustainable.
There is a new way, a kind way, a slow way, full of amazing products created beautifully and sustainably.
Women will always want to look good and buy new stuff so it’s our responsibility, as brands, to improve the ways in which they can do this. Our industry needs to be more sustainable, more circular, and just a bit kinder to people and the planet.
I want women who wear my designs to feel empowered and proud to be part of this Fashion Revolution.
Do you work with any charities?
I’m a mother of 3 children and also the chair of Home Start Lambeth; a charity that offers support, friendship and practical help to families with preschool-age children. Home Start Lambeth also specialises in domestic abuse training to help and support women in difficult relationships.
Eventually, I want to combine my two passions: fashion and charity work and create a social enterprise. This social enterprise would train and eventually employ women from deprived or difficult backgrounds, to give them the confidence and financial stability to strike out on their own and to be able to support their children.
Do you have any exciting future plans and where do you see your brand in 5 years?
There are so many exciting things happening with Under Her Eyes. We are just launching our 2nd range of bags made out of recycled scraps of leather.
The next range, launching end of November, will be fully vegan and also circular. The designs are also new and different but complementary to the core collection.
The plan for next year is to launch a jewellery collection, also made out of recycled materials. You are seeing a pattern here – CIRCULARITY!
Looking more into the future, I’m currently designing a clothing collection with circularity in mind and hoping to go into production late next year to launch in 2024.
If you could travel to one place in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Lock Muick in Scotland. My favourite place on earth. So peaceful, raw and wild nature. It has the best views in the world and most importantly, it feels like home.
What drew you to JewelStreet?
JewelStreet shares my values and I feel Under Her Eyes has found its community here; like-minded brands that put people and the planet first. We all still love fashion, but we want to do it differently and kindly.
What is your favourite quote?
By Coco Chanel - "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
Thank you for talking with us Silva!