Playful colours and functional designs are the blueprint of Ciré, which means “waxed” in French. Don’t be fooled by the name though, these waxed canvas bags are 100% Made in Britain, by founder Alison Vard. The name is a clin d’oeil to her French father and her upbringing on the French Riviera in Nice.
Ciré was founded in 2014 by Alison, using her self-taught sewing skills, a chance experimentation with waxed canvas and an ongoing interest in long-lasting utilitarian products. Since then the brand has grown organically, through the testing of techniques, materials and shapes and by responding to customer feedback.
Alison is part of the growing maker movement and is the woman running both the creative and business show behind this sustainable accessory brand. In fact she has recently made a limited edition collection for LOIS , an independent online store founded in Peckham (London’s new up and coming hipster neighbourhood).
BACO’s Maryjo Cartier sits down with Alison and finds out more.
Can you tell us about the process of making a Ciré bag?
I work from a small compact studio. I sew on an old Bernina sewing machine that is kindly being lent to me. It’s an incredible machine that seems to plough on regardless of what you throw at it. I use two grades of unfinished organic calico that I source from a lovely organic textile company in Wales. I then proceed to dye / screen – print the fabric and wax it using sustainable beeswax from the UK. I assemble all the bags myself at the moment, but I’m looking into getting a hand with sewing to build up stock.
You market your brand as sustainable – what is sustainable about it?
Building Ciré has been a slow process and I’m very happy to have recently been able to swap for sustainable products (ie organic cotton and local beeswax), as a tiny business it takes so much effort to create products I am happy with, it made sense to invest in good materials.
You’re an independent designer – what are the benefits and challenges of this?
It has been – and still is – an enormous challenge to make it work as an independent designer. I’ve learned so much on the way from mistakes and experiences. The benefits are obvious, working for yourself and having no restrictions on creativity but these are also the main challenges of working for yourself, not to get side-tracked and having no one else to blame than myself when everything goes wrong! It’s a lot of responsibilities and can get over-whelming but in the long run nothing beats that rush of adrenaline I get from work.
Did you study fashion or design at university?
I don’t have a fashion background. I have an MA in painting conservation which has a lot of over-lapping skills. I learned the basics of sewing with my mother and learned everything else slowly on my own.
What inspires your different collections, colours and prints?
My bags are just a constant evolution of what interests me, new shapes, ways of applying colour. I put the bags to the test and what works stays in the shop, I like to think of it as a natural selection of my ideas.
What next for Ciré?
I want Ciré to continue to grow and evolve naturally. I really want to start offering a line of bags made with naturally dyed fabric, and so I’m working on that at the minute.