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Investing in Sustainable Accessories

An Interview with Elizabeth Hardy, Owner and Designer, Espe
Jana Pijak
February 26th, 2024
My entire career working in fashion has led me to Espe. After 25 years as a CEO of an international fashion brand, I decided it was time to start something of my own. Espe was born from my lifelong love affair with fashion and my lifelong love of animals. Creating a fashion brand that was all about fun, function and fashion and not about harming animals was a dream and that dream became Espe. I am very proud as a woman, mother, wife and businessperson to introduce to you Espe - a line of handbags and wallets that are for literally every woman. Our bags do not have age boundaries and are designed by following my fashion heart. Our bags are crafted to last and to be loved by incredible, unique, women who believe in making conscious choices for today and tomorrow.

1. Tell us your name and about how the idea for Espe came about?

My name is Elizabeth Hardy and I purchased Espe as an existing business. After 30 years as a fashion executive I
decided it was time to use my skills and experience to run my own business. Espe, a cruelty free handbag company, was the perfect fit for my fashion background and love of animals.

2. What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation means paying attention to what customers are asking for or questions they need answers to and responding with solutions that make their lives better.

3. How do you and your team reset creativity when faced with roadblocks?

Always keep in mind that there is an answer somewhere out there. The answer you are looking for may not come from an obvious place so it is so important to be open and aware of all aspects of your life.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face while innovating?

The biggest challenge for my market is price. Customers want vegan bags but are not always happy with vegan leather made from PU. The cost of using alternative plant based materials is still higher than what the average consumer is willing to pay.

5. Has another industry ever influenced an innovation at Espe?

Not necessarily an industry but more the movement towards cruelty free and sustainability has influenced more people to make conscious choices for their lives.

6. Can you share the inspiration behind the Espe SS24 Collection?

The main character of this collection is colour inspired by the beauty of gardens flourishing with fresh mint, sage, mustard and lilac. Belt bags, fanny packs and midsize crossbodies radiate summer in soft sage, midsummer yellow and lilac inspired hues from soft pastels to deeper shades capturing the nuanced beauty of these colours.

7. The Espe Fashion Edit offers a variety of styles catering to different preferences. Can you discuss your design process more and speak more about the brand's sustainability goals?

Espe's commitment to inclusivity means our bags are designed with no age boundaries. Catering to women of all ages, it reflects a dedication to meeting the diverse needs and style preferences of a wide range of customers. The decision to have PETA approval and avoid animal by-products aligns with the growing demand for ethical and sustainable fashion. Exploring alternatives and keeping an eye on evolving technologies and market trends could eventually open up opportunities to incorporate more sustainable materials when they become more cost-effective.

8. How does Espe stand out in the highly competitive handbag market? What exciting launches or products can we look forward to from the brand in the future?

Espe stays competitive by catering to a wide range of tastes and preferences. The combination of timeless floral designs and contemporary styles allows Espe to appeal to a broad audience, spanning both loyal customers who have been drawn to the brand for over 15 years and newer customers seeking on-trend fashion.

Espe is excited to announce a menswear collection. Benjamin Gordon Bags are utility inspired, versatile and stylish bags for men. The collection goes beyond the runway allure of men's bags and focuses on real-world, wearable, and
functional designs that cater to the everyday needs of the modern man. We think men want to make cruelty free fashion choices too
References: espe