Like many other creative sectors, Coronavirus has left an indelible dent on the fashion industry. Each day comes with the news of another household brand making drastic (and once unimaginable) changes to their business models; whether it be leaving the longstanding fashion week schedule or downsizing the amount of collections they make, the worldwide halt caused by the pandemic has shown there needs to be a change. But for Colville, this thought process was already at the front of their minds.

Founded in 2018 by Lucinda Chambers and Molly Molloy, Colville has been actively nonconformist since its inception. “We feel we're a collective, the collaborative element of Colville is huge. It's what we're about, and it's what we always have been,” shares Chambers – the stylist of the duo, who was formerly the fashion director of British Vogue. “I tell everybody that it's not just us sitting in an ivory tower, we're not like lone designers as you know, it’s this community that we keep on gathering.” This community includes women from the Wayuu tribe, who made the bags Pedro Santos has shot for the new season. While a lot of fashion collaborations can feel forced and an attempt to stay current, Molloy’s chance meeting with a bag seller is as organic as it can be. Three years ago on a holiday in Mexico, Molloy was sunbathing when she spotted a woman, whose name she later found out to be Poppy, selling bags on the beach. “I saw this woman walking every single day and nobody was buying her bags. On the last day I asked her to come over, we sat down and we started chatting and she got all the bags out and they were amazing,” explains Molloy. “So I bought a couple for friends as presents, then I asked if ‘Could I stay in touch with you?’” Molloy noted that Chamber’s wore the style of bag during their Marni days – where Molloy was the Design Director and Chamber’s was consulting –  “I remember speaking about it when we were at Marni, but we never did it. And so [when we started Colville] we just said ‘Let's do it’. I reached out to Poppy, and that was it.” This holiday chat started the ongoing collaboration between the brand and the tribe, and with every 30 bags sold, 16 families of the tribe are fed for a month.

To the Wayuu, weaving is a symbol of wisdom, intelligence and creativity. As their craft is fixed within their identity, other brands may have struggled to compromise on the tribe’s aesthetic. “At the beginning it was quite difficult because we wanted to create our own pattern and I think we wanted to write Colville on it,” shares Molloy, proving that making both sides happy isn’t an easy venture. “And then we understood; Poppy sent this really beautiful email saying that the women only want to work on things that make them feel happy. That we had to understand that they work in the streets and this is their life, so they only want to be happy when they're working. We said, ‘Okay, we'll work with their design in our colours’ and that's what we did.” The first debut was featured in the 2019 Spring/Summer collection and it still remains as coveted as it was on its first release as the seasons pass. “I think what's phasing is to have something to own, something where the provenance is so unusual. When we talk about fast fashion, it's like the antithesis of that, isn't it?” says Chamber’s. “It's been on a journey that bag, and it's been through people's hands and through different people's lives, and then it ends up in your home. It's kind of amazing to have that, to have a story attached to something that you wear, I think is so beautiful.” This is evidently shown through Santos’ images. Santos spent three days with the tribe, and executed a collection of images that reflect their content way of life. “I asked my friend who's Mexican and has a magazine,” tells Molloy. “And I said, ‘Can you think of any South American photographer that we could either fly within South America or who was in Colombia?’ And he came up with Pedro. He was young and just starting out, and Lucinda and I looked at his work and he’d done some really beautiful images, not fashion at all. We connected with him, he went up there and he stayed with them for three days and got to know them and it was really sweet. He said that they're just amazing and they live in such rural and poor conditions, but they're really happy and that they love what they do.”

For other brands, this act of narration is often shown through huge runway installations and a carefully curated soundtrack, but Colville have always opted for a less brash approach to the fashion week showcase. Their intimate presentations give them the opportunity to personally explain to buyers and press their story, and while we can see the shake up of fashion weeks is already happening, Chamber’s doesn’t see huge change for the bag names. “I think this gives us a huge opportunity for everybody to really look at how they're running their businesses, what they're spending their money on and what different ways we can do things. But, I don't think that there will ever not be shows. I think people will be really inventive because the money's not there anymore.”

And with the world changing at such a quick rate, it's comforting to know that a brand so devoted to craftsmanship, is still the same as before. 

Shop the bags below:

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