Couples in Business - 'a' conversation with Campbell Cole
Campbell Cole is founded on meticulous design processes, an appreciation for a confidently clean aesthetic and forward looking products. Creating refined and contemporary leather accessories, Ian Campbell Cole and Felicity Baggett are the partnership behind the brand and the next in our Couples in Business series. We caught up with them in Paris to talk travel, business and the future of Campbell Cole.
“I’ve always been a keen cyclist,” Ian tells me, “and I designed a backpack for the cycling commuter as part of my final year project at university. Little did I know at the time, that a few years later, it would form the starting point of a business. The product has evolved hugely but I still love that good accessories have such a functional use in everyday life.”
Like Alice Made This, Campbell Cole is rooted in material honesty and precision. All of our collections are centered on a shared vision of process, raw components and refinery. With such cemented foundations, I wonder how Ian and Felicity work together to ensure that these values are upheld throughout their business.
“When Ian started Campbell Cole,” Felicity says, “I was working in quite a demanding role as a men’s shirt designer. I would get home late in the evening, totally ready to wind down and Ian would greet me full of enthusiasm and ideas, asking my opinion on all sorts of things that had cropped up during his day. We were out of sync in a way. So when I started looking for a new job and couldn’t find anything that was quite right it seemed obvious that I should join him working on Campbell Cole. We have the same taste and appreciation for beautiful, timeless product so working together made sense.”
“Overall though,” Ian adds, “we’re probably terribly inefficient, as we tend to do a huge amount together. The creative vision of Campbell Cole is shared… we design everything together. We are meticulous about detail and spend a lot of time making sure we are both happy with each product before it hits the website.”
“Sharing something that you have created together, as well as the experiences that go along with that is wonderful,” he continues. “For example, we have both previously worked as designers where we have been lucky enough to travel to some amazing, far-flung places but nothing beats a work trip with your partner. Having dinner together in Paris after a long day showing the collection that we have designed together makes you want to pinch yourself and is such a driving force behind us continuing with what we do. The restaurants may not be quite as fancy and the flights are definitely no longer business class but it feels amazing to be on this crazy journey together, like we’ve somehow managed to escape from normal life.”
As any couple in business knows, balancing time, relationships and time for yourselves can be a struggle. For every work trip and restaurant, there are late nights and tough decisions to be made together. Highs and lows are entwined throughout the shared business progression.
“Working late nights and evenings when you work for yourself is always easier to accept than when you work for someone else,” Ian agrees, “but it is also easy to let it take over. I love getting out and about, meeting people, visiting factories and suppliers, working through the development process to ensure our product is the best it can be. Fliss oversees the day-to-day running of the business and makes sure things happen when they should – she is a natural organiser and an obsessive list maker. Last year it got a little out of hand and we realised that we were either working or talking about work all the time. It was exhausting. At the beginning of this year we made a promise to each other that we would spend more time on ‘life stuff’. So, we are house hunting at the moment, which is ridiculously exciting and have just started to plan a wedding. We hope to get married in the next couple of years - to each other, so it can’t be all that bad.”
A complimentary balance of skills and an awareness of work/ life harmony has meant that Campbell Cole has secured itself the reputation for one of the most exciting British brands. With marriage in the future for the couple in their person lives, I ask what is coming next for them at work.
“We have an A5 Pouch launching at the end of July”, Felicity tell me, “which is one of my favourite pieces as it makes a great travel pouch - it fits printed tickets and maps, a mini iPad or notebook, as well as having a pocket for your passport. A true unisex product - I’m particularly excited about it, as it will also look lovely carried as a perfectly understated simple clutch.”
Learn more about Campbell Cole here.