Zoe Larkins began selling her handstitched leather jewellery and accessories under the label of Love From Hetty & Dave on London’s Portobello and Spitalfields markets, and soon established a cult following, with customers including celebrities such as Amy Winehouse and Deborah Meaden. We asked Zoe about her passion for working with leather and her new book, Love Leather Accessories …
How easy is it to work with leather and how did you get started?
“I got started working with leather while I was on my BA Hons Silversmithing and Goldsmithing degree. I teamed up with my best friend, who was studying fashion, and designed the accessories for her degree show. Some of her clothing designs were made from leather, so I incorporated it with my metal pieces and the rest is history! Shortly after this, I abandoned the metal work and concentrated solely on leather and textiles. I love working with leather, as the nappa is so soft, tactile and it doesn’t fray.”
What do you enjoy about creating accessories with leather?
“I find the range of juicy jewel-like colours so inspiring. When I go to see my leather dealer, I end up buying so much more than I ever intended. My drawing isn’t up to much, so I sketch out rough ideas for designs which I make into templates, but it’s when I get cutting and sticking the leather pieces into place that I get excited. I might make a couple of samples before I get a design exactly how I want it, but I just love the process. I’m very ‘hands on’, and once the stitching is done it absolutely transforms a design.”
“All sorts of things inspire my designs. I think it’s quite clear from my work that I am a great animal lover, and I think my interest in 1950s fashion and design shows through too. I love bright colours, so sometimes when I’m buying leather, a colour will trigger an idea.”
Do you have a favourite project from Love Leather Accessories?
“My favourite project from the book is the strawberry brooch or earrings. I love all the foody ones, but the strawberries are so tactile and really quite satisfying to make.”
Which project was the most fun to design?
“The most fun project to design was the dippy egg necklace. I love those classic stripey Cornish egg cups, and thought that the soldier heading towards the egg yolk, as a separate piece was kinda fun!”
Which tool or piece of equipment could you not live without?
“I couldn’t live without my thimble. I can’t even sew through the softest fabric, let alone leather, without a thimble now. It makes my stitching super neat, and keeps my finger tip from getting super sore!”
“My top tip for working with leather is ALWAYS use a leather needle. In the early days I attempted stitching leather with a normal sewing needle, and my advice is, don’t even try it! It’s tough work!”
Do you have any hints for upcoming trends?
“I’m planning on some scrummy woollen capes for the winter collection, with leather embellishments… I’ve been thinking about these for the last couple of winters, but this year I’m going to make sure I do it!”
What are you working on at the moment?
“At the moment I’m working on customising shoes and bags with kitsch flamingo designs, which are going down a treat with my customers. By Autumn, I hope to launch a range of leather kits to ‘make it yourself’, for crafty people who can’t make it to my workshops in Bournemouth.”