One person’s trash can literally be another person’s treasure, even when it comes to designer bags.
Upon seeing a lack of bag offerings that could check the boxes of being unique, socially conscious and eco-friendly, Hamilton Perkins set out to create his own. In this week’s Warby of X installment, Perkins, who is the founder and president of Hamilton Perkins Collection, joined PYMNTS to discuss why the industry was in need of a new — be it recycled — take on designer goods.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: How did your company get started?
HP: The concept for the Earth Bags started with a very simple idea — we wanted to make a better bag. We were looking to make a bag that was cool; people want a trendy bag that’s also easy to buy. We wanted to check all those boxes. Our bags are made out of recycled plastic, so each bag is unique. On the inside, each bag has a different lining due to the bold pops of color from recycled billboards, like you would see on the side of the road. For most people looking for a travel bag, everything looks the same. If you look out at the industry, a lot of the offerings are largely commoditized, the designs aren’t differentiated — they’re cheap, overpriced and nothing really special. Our solution was an affordable line of uniquely designed, eco-friendly travel bags. They are handcrafted by Haitian artisans, made out of recycled plastic and billboards, trendy, sophisticated, and feature a one-of-a-kind lining on every bag.
PYMNTS: Can you describe the process of how a Hamilton Perkins Collection bag is made? What are the materials that goes into each product?
HP: It all starts in the developing world. We source plastic bottles in Haiti and Honduras and then go through a process where the bottles are turned into a fabric. The fabric is then cut and sewn with our recycled billboard vinyl to make a bag. We do this all down in Haiti, so we have a partner there who helps us create our bags, and then we bring them back to the U.S. to be delivered to our customers. We are continuing to evolve, so eventually we will start doing a fulfillment process where it goes through a fulfillment center and then onto the customer.
PYMNTS: What was the inspiration behind using a direct-to-consumer eCommerce business model versus using a brick-and-mortar or physical channel?
HP: We started with a Kickstarter campaign with a $10,000 goal, which we hit in under a week. From there we had six months to deliver our bags. In the meantime, I went out and competed in the Virginia Velocity Tour, where I won a $25,000 grant to keep going, and I did a trunk show at Bloomingdale’s in New York City. Finally, I was able to deliver the bags in December to all of our customers who pre-ordered. That brings us to where we are today, getting ready upgrade our eCommerce channel and start to get customers into our community. You can order online now, but we plan to make the site a little bit more robust with additional inventory and a better user experience for the customer.
The bags will be available exclusively online, which I think is just practical. I’ve seen a lot of success with many of the direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands that I actually enjoy or am a customer using that model. There’s also more of a chance for storytelling and to engage and nurture the shopper, and a traditional retail channel may not be able to achieve that same level of brand awareness. It is a longer road potentially, but at the end of the day we feel like our lends itself well to D2C.
PYMNTS: How has Hamilton Perkins Collection taken a different or disruptive approach to the retail industry? Why was the industry in need of this type of change?
HP: In our case, most bags are made out of traditional cotton, leather or other materials — they aren’t made out of recycled plastic and billboards. We felt like doing good is a great model. Having a great cause and donating for a cause is also a great model, but we thought, what if we could combine both of those? What if we could also really share our process and have a sustainable process of how are bags are made, what they’re made out of and who they impact? That’s how we arrived at the Earth Bags. It’s a product that’s made from trash at the end of the day, and not many companies in the industry are doing that.
PYMNTS: What is your take on the “Warby of X” concept? Do you see D2C evolving as a sustainable business model that can continue to spark disruption?
HP: I think the D2C model will continue to evolve. There’s probably going to be much more competition at the highest levels because if you think about the different brands that most people go to traditional retail for, the question will be if a consumer go to a brick-and-mortar location for the location itself or for the brand that they love. That could be something that plays itself out over time, but I do think that it will continue to evolve. As we get more mature with eCommerce, I think you’ll still see new brands and companies that are offering amazing products, which may not be the biggest deal to the biggest players, but over time that will continue to chip away at the traditional model.
PYMNTS: What’s next for Hamilton Perkins Collection? Do you have any news or updates you can share?
HP: For us, we want to really be able to offer a better bag and also offer our customers an aspirational lifestyle. We want to showcase that on social media, so we are looking to do more with our Instagram account and continue to do more fun things — from contests to giveaways and offers. We really just want to continue to delight our customers and get the word out.
We also have some new ideas that we have been working on when it comes to the product line. We actually crowdsourced the design, so we didn’t rely on one person or team to come up with the design; instead, we let our customers and prospective customers create our new products. It was kind of a democratizing process of design, but at the end of the day, we have something that people actually want.