The Vendeur Profile: Karen & Ellen Yates

Image: Taylor Yates

Inspired by their family history and motivated by social responsibility, Karen and Ellen Yates are creating a new narrative when it comes to bag design. So what does it take to make beautiful bags that also make a difference?

Karen and Ellen Yates are the mother/daughter duo behind British Handbag brand Taylor Yates. Their seasonless range of handbags is made in the most transparent way possible, right here in Britain. Karen and Ellen believe passionately in passing their own opportunities on. They spoke to us about why it’s so important that they continue to produce their bags in a sustainable and transparent way.

Image: Taylor Yates

The Vendeur: Tell us about how you came to launch the brand, and why Taylor Yates is different to other brands on the market?

Karen Yates – My Nana had a shop when I was growing up so I guess I was always around fashion. However it wasn’t something I thought was necessarily for me. I went on to do a degree in marketing and work for a manufacturing company based in Northern Ireland. This just felt like the perfect time to get back into the fashion industry. I talked about it with Ellen and we decided that we would go for it.

Ellen Yates – I’ve always loved fashion and seeing so many new brands launching online I figured it was something we could do together too. And that we could do it well.

KY – We worked with an amazing agency in Belfast who helped us realise that Taylor Yates was us and explained everything we wanted to say. We also have a purpose that hopefully communicates to people the fact that the product is beautiful but we are a luxury fashion brand that is accessible to more people. We use a gorgeous, very soft leather that means it almost moulds with the body. Alongside developing the range we also looked into our social responsibilities. We wanted every handbag that we sell to give back to a Foundation.

EY – I think it’s important for people to know that we have opportunities we want to share with other people. It’s important to us to give other women the opportunity to have the same choices as us.

KY – We want this brand to be ageless and timeless. Our customer has purpose, she knows where she’s going. It won’t be important to everybody that there’s a purpose behind the brand but it’s important to us. The aim is for customers  to fall in love with Taylor Yates bags, allowing us to grow and continue to give back.

“Working in business today takes determination and hard work and I was reminded of the strong Lancashire women that guided me and gave me the freedom to choose. The bags are fittingly named after those great women in my family.” – Karen Yates

TV: As a millenial still at University, has Ellen’s unique view on the world inspired certain aspects of the business?

KY – I think there are two things – one being her trend awareness and level of knowledge and taste for product, and two is the sustainability side of things. It is something that is important to both of us but she is particularly driven to not harm the planet.

EY – I think it has helped to balance what we do so we are both happy with the brand overall. For me the sustainability side of the production is important as well as producing a beautiful product. At the end of the day they still look amazing and ‘Instagramable’ enough that we will stand out. Film has played a big part too. It is something we have included in our editorials and social media from the start. Initially I was used as our model and was part of the filming process itself. However recently I Art Directed and Film Directed our Christmas 2018 film, which I loved. I’m still at university in Manchester and am heading back in September to finish my degree after a placement year working on Taylor Yates full time.

Image: Taylor Yates

TV: Why is building a sustainable brand important to you both, do you have differing views in this area?

KY – I’m really interested in the idea of conscious consumerism and people buying quality, well-made products to last rather than just throw away fashion. I also want to build a socially good business that gives back and helps women around the world understand that they can do and be anything they want to be.

EY – For me I am conscious of the effect that everything, especially the fashion industry, has on the planet. I think it is so important to be aware of the impact that you are having as a business as well as a consumer. We source our leather as a by-product of food production in the UK, where it is tanned and then handmade into our bags. So everything – as much as possible – is local and we can control our impact to a point. We are always working to be more sustainable and we are currently looking at packaging alternatives that we can use which are more eco friendly.

“I think it is so important to be aware of the impact that you are having as a business as well as a consumer.” – Ellen Yates

TV: What roles do you each hold within the company?

KY – As a start up and a small team of literally just us and our PR company, it’s often all hands on deck. We tend to design together, bringing both of our ideas and developing the product together. As I am involved in two other businesses and Ellen is currently on a placement year she does more of the day to day. Apart from design and direction, strategy and finance would be my areas.

EY – Yeah, we design together. I am on a placement year so can work on Taylor Yates full time, therefore I do most of the day to day. That can be anything from social media, shoot planning, sourcing and keeping in touch with the factory. I also spend time in our retail space in Bushmills where I actually get to speak to potential customers and tell them all about our products and the story behind our brand.

Image: Taylor Yates

“I’m really interested in the idea of conscious consumerism and people buying quality, well-made products to last rather than just throw away fashion.” – Karen Yates

TV: What do you each envision the future of the brand being and what milestones would you like to reach?

KY – We are currently working on our first circular economy collection which may include some menswear pieces. Ultimately, we would like Taylor Yats to be known as a brand with people, planet and purpose at the centre of everything we do. We would love to be able to create a capsule collection of clothing at some point in the future too.

EY – I think the development of our circular economy collection will be so great when it is finished and it will let us expand our audience more. I want to see us grow our following and to create a real community of people all over the world. Ideally I would also like us to have a presence in New York and London as well as at home (Ireland).  Whether that’s through other retailers or in our own locations – maybe pop ups to start – it would be amazing.

TV: Do you have any new product launches coming up?

EY – Yes we have some new pieces coming this summer with new colours to follow. So sign up to our newsletter to stay in the know!

Disclaimer: The people and models in the images featured are not associated with The Vendeur and do not endorse it or the products shown. This post may contain affiliate links. Prices correct at time of publishing. Discount code is only valid until 10th May 2019.