“Back in 2016 when we had the idea, there were not a lot of options for what we wanted in a bag made from recycled materials. Most options that were available were either nice but not special or expensive and just not what we were looking for. We officially launched on Kickstarter in 2016, we had a $10,000 goal and hit the goal in six days. We shipped about $25K in crowdfunding revenue.”
For a long period of time the fashion industry has relied on the same 10 to 12 fibres to make almost all of its garments and products. The use of some of these materials can have a negative impact on the environment. In fact, not many people realise that the fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production. Yet, some industry players are starting to add some new tools to their toolbox. One US company is doing just that, by incorporating sustainable materials into its accessories. Virginia-based Hamilton Perkins Collection is producing bags from pineapple leaf fibre, recycled plastic water bottles and repurposed billboard vinyls.
Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye, caught up with Hamilton Perkins, founder of Hamilton Perkins Collection.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind your Hamilton Perkins?
Hamilton Perkins (HP): We make bags and accessories from recycled materials. We make our products from materials like recycled plastic water bottles, pineapple leaf fibre, and billboard vinyl. Each bag is always unique and different as a result. We have been featured in news channels like Forbes, FastCompany, Money Magazine and the Washington Post.
Our products are sold in nearly 150 retail outlets across the US. We also sell our products via hamiltonperkins.com.
I initially came up with the idea to launch Hamilton Perkins Collection to solve a personal problem of mine. I couldn’t easily find a stylish backpack that I could be proud to carry.
We launched our company around three years ago and initially started out on Kickstarter – a global crowdfunding platform. We started with a Kickstarter campaign with a $10,000 goal, which we hit in under a week and ended up actually raising $25,000. It took us about six months to deliver our first orders received from the campaign.
Essentially, it took us around one year to learn the ropes of how to work with recycled materials and to find unique suppliers that could work with us to supply us with the materials we needed. In our second year, we started knocking on doors, reaching out to retailers and getting our products into specialty stores and boutiques. At the same time, we started to get media coverage of our company. During those years, we learned a lot about our customer, product and brand. We found that local stores were a viable way to reach customers and give them a great experience.
In addition to this, we opened up a pop-up store near where we are located. Here, we sell our products, host events and record podcasts.
Our team is small – two full staff and one part time.
LG: Under the glare of environmental concerns, brands are changing the materials they use. How have your products been received by your customers?
HP: Our bags have more than 90% 5-star reviews and have been received well. We have been fortunate to have our customers help us with product design. 1 out of 10 customers will donate materials to be repurposed. This has enabled us to lean in to offering unique products made from recycled materials.
We are just getting started and have largely worked with early adopters. The opportunities to create new designs are endless. We look forward to introducing our brand to the mass market.
LG: What were you doing before you become the founder of Hamilton Perkins?
HP: I studied marketing as an undergrad at Old Dominion University and I earned my MBA at The College of William and Mary. I spent 5 years working in retail and 7 years in banking and investment management. However, I have always been interested in design, architecture and design. Essentially, we started with a problem we had and made something that we would want.
LG: Were do you source your materials from?
HP: We source from a variety of places. In the early days, we sourced from the trash. Today, we work with a lot of customers and source our materials from the US, Haiti, Asia and the Philippines. Furthermore, sometimes we will purchase these materials from suppliers, brands and retailers. We also source materials through brand collaborations.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing your company?
HP: Our biggest challenge is managing all the timelines involved. Production can be a lengthy process and doing things the right way takes patience. Using sustainable materials can add to that timeline as there can be unknowns when working with materials for the first time. We are constantly optimising for the best outcome for our customers.
LG: What’s coming up next for Hamilton Perkins?
HP: We will continue to promote our pop-up store until the end of this year. We are also increasing our web presence and shipping more products globally.
We don’t have any pop-ups in Europe yet. However, we are currently researching partners and biding our time to look for the right moment to do this.
LG: What advice would you give to someone looking to launch their product in this space?
HP: My advice has changed from when I started the company.
At the start of my journey, I would have said don’t get too wrapped up in the idea and be biased towards executing. Now, I would say that you need to do a thorough research of your market. This is much easier to do now than when I first started the company. There is so much information out there and resources to help you get started.
As well as this, I would say that you have to be patient. It will not happen overnight. So, you need to put in a lot of work. Working for someone for free that you admire is a great way to get experience and learn exactly what you need to do to be successful.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainability product?
HP: I’m a big fan of Allbirds shoes. They are really comfortable and look good.