“We had a vision to create something that would last, and to give new life to fabrics that were no longer wanted.” This is what sparked the idea for Empire of Bees, the slow fashion accessories brand out of Mackay, Queensland.
Founded by cousins Claire Davies and Bridget Weiske, Empire of Bees’ quality handbags and accessories are made in Indonesia by independent tailors with a love for their labour. While working directly with the craftsmen brings with it a number of barriers, the pair says it means they have more control over the supply chain and their workers’ conditions, and to that, they are committed.
It’s also through this relationships with their independent tailors that they help to support the families of their workers and their extended villages.
Since launching the label is 2013, Empire of Bees has become known for two things. One is the absolute commitment to making classic, timeless pieces that will outlast a season. For this reason the bags are flawlessly tailored, designed to be used (pockets galore) and made in the styles we all know and love.
The second is the bohemian style which is brought to the bags through the intricate design, internal and external fabrics, and colours and tassels which tie everything off nicely.
The founders say their design inspiration was influenced by longevity: “We were driven to create a product that had a positive impact on the environment and humanity and, through many trials and errors, we started designing with salvaged fabrics and quality leathers to achieve a sustainable product that would last a lifetime, not just a season.”
While leather is contested as to whether it’s a sustainable material or not, it’s clear there’s a way forward without the material. However, in it’s current availability, small brands help to use up what would otherwise be waste as a bi-product of the meat industry.
Leather as a textile is loved not only for its glove-like fit. It’s loved for its durability, and therefore poses as a benefit for sustainability because it’s made to last. And that’s what Empire of Bees are going for, timeless pieces that last more than a season (many more actually).
As for sustainability in production, the Empire of Bees team have it covered. “We have a zero-waste policy with production which means we have to get creative. If we have leather offcuts left over from a previous batch we may design small card wallets or use the leather for labelling.”
For the fabrics, the brand sources those of the upcycled and deadstock variety to add a custom look and feel to every piece and to help reduce waste in the production.
Empire of Bees also have a men’s range (wallets), and a natural leather care range that’s made in Australia. You can check it out here.
Photos by Amanda Ward Photography