The last three months have been extremely disorientating. The barrage of news and media coverage with updates about Covid-19 and the ever-increasing mortality rate have been lingering in my mind. If this was not enough, I have the added challenge of trying to run a company, whilst being at home with my husband full time and home schooling our two children.
Hi, my name is Helen Farr-Leander and I know that I am not alone in this situation. The focus for many of us right now is how we get through this one day and a time whilst simultaneously protecting our loved ones.
I am an optimist, and I have to say that I have felt privileged at times to be spending this time with my children. I have two boys aged 5 and 3 and they are both at different stages of their development. I am not a teacher, but home schooling them and being with them throughout the lock-down has given me a unique view of what teachers love about teaching. I have really seen them grow, both intellectually and as brothers. These changes may have slipped me by in the busy life we had before this all happened.
With the focus very much on family, for me this is also a time to reflect on our future. If anything good can come out of this pandemic, it might be that we spend more time with our families, spend more time working from home and less time travelling, as well as altering our lifestyles and being kinder to each other and the planet.
You will no doubt have seen images of clean waterways, wild animals roaming and turtles nesting in areas where human activity would normally be so dense that these events do not occur. Our planet is starting to tick a new rhythm and we need to facilitate that rhythm more consciously.
Why I started my business…
A change in rhythm is precisely what inspired me to start my business Watson & Wolfe 3 years ago. My youngest boy was just 3 months old. A conversation with a friend reminded me of a range of wallets I had sketched out before I fell pregnant, and so it began.
I had spent more than 10 years working for top luxury leather goods brand Aspinal of London, where I was pivotal in building the company to £10M. When I stopped working to raise a family, I knew that going back to long hours and travelling was not for me, I wanted to spend as much time raising the children as possible, so starting my own company was always on the horizon.
Nobody had an objection to me designing and making luxury animal leather wallets. But when I decided to stop using leather and began showing them vegan and sustainable materials, everyone had something to say about it.
I had obviously gone mad and was making radical decisions! I was immediately hit with a lot of scepticism. Friends and family said, ‘there isn’t a demand’, ‘maybe vegan men don’t want that’ ‘maybe the market is too small’. But I was not going to be deterred.
People who adopt a vegan lifestyle do not stop eating meat because they dislike the taste. And it is not the look and feel of leather that is the problem, it is where it comes from and how it came to be. A man who likes nice things, does not stop liking nice things just because he chooses to stop eating animals. So, I found it inconceivable that you could not buy a luxury, well-made vegan wallet in the UK which had the same level of quality as an animal leather wallet.
Inside we use plastic bottles. Why? Because water use is an important aspect of improving sustainability in fashion. The fashion industry uses a disproportionate amount of water for each garment that we buy so we had to find something that used the least amount of water. We settled on rPET, a recycled plastic bottle fibre which has the same characteristics as polyester, which is most commonly use in Luxury leather goods. The different between virgin polyester and rPET is that rPET uses 94% less water, 60% less energy and 32% less CO2 to manufacture.
And our suppliers are as eco conscious as we are too. You can read more about our supply chain here.
Two years on and despite the unforeseen sideswipe of Covid 19, things are going well for us, and we have ambitious plans for expansion, including launching a range for women due to popular demand. I believe that something good always comes out of something bad – and maybe the good that can come from the pandemic is a reflection on real values, what is most important to us going forward – kindness, consideration and our families, our friends, our fellow human beings and living creatures and the planet that we all share.