INTERVIEW WITH LLOYD RAYNER FROM KURTIS PAUL
It is always nice when we find out that some brand are doing stuff for charity either by arranging an event or donating part of their profits for a cause. We all have a social responsibility and its good to know when people care and do some thing. But the mens bags and accessories brand Kurtis Paul took it to another level. They decided to donate all their profits from Aug 2016 to Christmas 2016 to various charities that are close to their heart. Kurtis Paul went a step further and even refused to their wages during this time. This is an incredible step which raises the bar and is an inspiration for others.
We talked to LLoyd Rayner, the one half of the designer duo; about his brand and what inspired him to take this step.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into fashion.
Fashion was a complete shift for me. I started my career as a business analyst for the top FTSE 100 companies but found myself constantly reverting back to my natural creative self. I would spend much of my down time designing and making things. I am big into self development courses and it was during one of these that we discussed the benefits of being true to ones self. I decided to take a career change and set up Kurtis Paul. Kurtis Paul specialising in luggage is a reference back to my former life. Being on the road a lot you quickly get a feel for what does and doesn’t work.
2. What is Kurtis Paul about and what makes you stand out of the crowd?
Kurtis Paul isn’t aimed at the masses, we don’t want to become another high street brand with its cheap manufacturing and short lived trends. We appeal to the luxury market and as such we give our products the love and care they deserve. Our product lines are small and this is because we want every item to be perfect and crafted for a specific purpose. As a brand Kurtis Paul is a mix of bold and caring. We say what we think because we are true to ourselves whilst ensuring that our work is not just for the benefit of the company. In example recently pledged all profits to go to charity, up to Christmas.
3. Who is an ideal Kurtis Paul customer?
We define our ideal customer as ‘The Modern Gentleman’. This is someone with a defined path to greatness, he is confident but aware that he is not faultless and has a desire to be the best. His down time is spent improving himself and the lives of others; committing time to self development, fitness and health. The Modern Gentleman has an awareness of fashion but dismisses short lived trends, he is much more focused on his individual style.
This persona can be found in all our bags, we have injected them with a back story, setting the scene and giving insights into the personalities behind them.
4. You decided you donate all profits to charity between August and Christmas time. Its a bold step. What made you do it and what charities are you donating the profits to?
I have a love of travel and over the past few years I have been backpacking through some of the most beautiful places in the world. One such place is Eastern Africa. I travelled from Nairobi, Kenya through Tanzania. I have a strong belief that people are shaped by the events of their lives, this trip was one of those moments for me. I visited the Kibera whilst in Kenya. The Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa, people live in houses made of rubble, have insufficient money and quite frankly the situation was upsetting. It was post this trip that I set my sights on one day giving something back. The opportunity came after starting Kurtis Paul, it wasn’t a light decision since it meant both myself and Kurtis (co-founder) would have no income from the company but the benefits massively outweigh our financial loss. The money is being donated to a company called African Childrens Haven who work with people living in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 per day) and help with education and shelter. The charity is doing great work and whilst we are under no illusions that our donations will remedy the issue we sleep better at night knowing that even if we save one life we have made the world a better place. We have also found that the pledge gives us a burst of energy unlike no other. We know that there is a direct benefit from our business growth, which is refreshing.
5. You use both leather and canvas for your bags. What do you prefer?
Controversial question, Kurtis and I have different views on this. My preference is leather. I have a fondness for the outdoors and believe the properties of leather portray this image completely. The material is one of the most versatile available and it can be crafted into an array of applications. Take for instance the leather we use for our backpack. The darwin backpack was made for ‘The Modern Explorer’ someone with a love for adventure. To fit with this we chose a natural top grain leather, just like the human skin this will age with use and it is this effect which we believe makes the backpack a beautiful product. On the apposing scale are our accessories. We understand these items take a fair amount of abuse and we wanted them to be able to withstand this. Take for instance the laptop sleeve, there have been many times I have put my laptop down on a table to find coffee spills or the remains of somebodies lunch. With this in mind we chose a waxy leather for our accessories, this waxy exterior helps them repel most things which would otherwise stain leather. It also makes them easier to clean and most dirt can be wiped clean.
6. What do you think about the new trend of cruelty free fashion where a lot of people are shifting from leather to canvas and other alternatives?
I completely respect these people. The world is a fragile place and it is our responsibility to ensure it is sustainable. I think the term trend is probably incorrect, a trend by its nature is short lived and I think the desire for ‘cruelty free fashion’ will not go away. We hear more and more about global warming and as this intensifies the need for alternatives will grow exponentially. Kurtis Paul uses leather in its products as a bi-product of the meat industry, we do not directly slaughter and animal for their skins. Whilst this may sound like a passive response I understand that times are changing, leather is one of mans oldest creations but this does not mean it will be used for ever. As the desire for cruelty free fashion intensifies we will continue our search for alternatives, hence our canvas range.
7. What are the future plans for Kurtis Paul?
The future is big and Kurtis Paul intends on filling it. We see a rise in online shopping habits and so we will be focusing on this space, it is our aim to recreate the look and feel of the high street within the home PC. Kurtis Paul has no current plans to grow or change its market sector, we are bags and accessories, we do it well and that is what we will continue doing.
8. London being the fashion capital, how rich do you think is the Manchester Fashion Scene and are you satisfied with the speed of its growth?
I agree that London is the capital of fashion when it comes to brands and events but being from Manchester I see a much higher sense of passion from this city. Manchester is one of those places which hasn’t lost a sense of who it is. Manchester is a very fashionable place and as such are its people. Regarding the speed of growth; if you asked me this question 2 years ago I would say no. But in recent times Manchester has become one of the coolest places in the UK. Manchester is going through a period of rapid growth, we are seeing places like the Northern Quarter, which is known for its hip bars and informal nightclubs or Spinningfields which is a formal up-market section. This growth has brought with it a new drive for fashion and with it a catalogue of brands.
9. How did you both decide to join forces and start the brand together? Have you known each other for long?
We have known each other all our lives, we are brothers :).
Choosing to go into business with family was an easy choice for us. Having grown up together we have had very similar experiences and had the same upbringing. This really helps when it comes to decision making, we have similar thought process so decisions are usually pretty easy. Being family also helps when it comes to politics, we have a really good understanding of what motivates and drives the other person and we don’t have to worry about upsetting each other. We can be very direct when it comes to tasks and get straight to the point.
Kurtis and I decided to start Kurtis Paul in 2015 after a period of self reflection. We are both very creative and were in jobs where we felt restricted. We felt we were spending our lives making other peoples dreams come true whilst placing ours on hold. It was at this point we took the plunge and went all in with KP. We haven’t looked back. The transition from employee to entrepreneur is such an exciting experience. It is a point at which you dedicate yourself to creating something magical.
2. How do you split the responsibilities between each other?
The line of responsibilities changes almost monthly between Kurtis and I. When one is busy the other picks up some of their tasks, we are both working towards a common goal so the thought of doing a little extra or picking up some extra work doesn’t really phase us. As a general rule Kurtis manages our social media and incoming orders whilst I pick up our website and manufacturing. We both have input into the design process and so far this has worked really well. We have slightly different tastes when it comes to design and we notice things the other would maybe miss. I see the responsibilities changing as the company grows but I think that is only natural, we want to be the best in our field and sometimes this means changing and adapting as the market requires.