Lawyer-turned-designer Rachel Robertson hand crafts high quality stylish bags in her Aberdeen studio, which she shares with two other north-east artists.
After working in the legal profession for a few years, Rachel longed for a more creative role. As a result, her dream brand Hackley was born towards the end of 2017.
Rachel knew she needed to find a strong − but at the same time very personal − name for her brand. She said: “Hackley Bay (near Collieston) is a beautiful beach along the coast from where I grew up. It’s a really beautiful and calm place and it’s something which has been part of my whole life. It seemed fitting for it to be part of something I felt I should have been doing for a long time.
“I also wanted to find a name which wasn’t tied to one type of product should I want to take things in a new direction in the future.”
At the moment, Rachel offers a range of tote bags, purses, backpacks and messenger bags and up until recently was creating these products in the spare room of her Aberdeen home.
Teaming up with Camilla Hammill of Mimi Hammill and Shirin Karbor of Shirin’s Doodles, the trio now rent a space in Aberdeen’s Northern Arts Club.
In addition to her signature products, Rachel often works on custom designs for clients which are some of her favourite pieces to make. She said: “I love working with a customer to either tweak one of my staple designs or to create something completely new. It can be really fun to see some of the designs in a different colour combination or in a different selection of fabrics.
“Usually, a customer has a pretty strong idea of what they would like and they get in touch directly with this in mind. I then work on a new or modified design with them until we’re both happy.
“I really love designing and I always get a real buzz when I see the finished item.”
Rachel said she enjoys everything about the handcrafting process.
She said: “I have always enjoyed creating things with my hands and I have definitely translated this to the Hackley manufacturing process. I do everything by hand when it comes to my products − drafting patterns, designing as well as sketching. “My industrial sewing machine is as technical as it gets. I use fairly simple and traditional methods to make all the products.”
Rachel views creating new bags as an interesting problem-solving process.
She said: “I may have a problem such as the need for a bag to do a particular job, be suitable for an occasion or I have to use certain materials. And I need to work out how I will then do this through the design. I enjoy the way I have to balance the practical aspects such as durability and comfort with the aesthetics of the design.”
Sustainability is at the heart of Rachel’s brand. She said: “The business is still in its infancy and as I continue to learn, I also learn more about how I can try to make my production and supply of materials more sustainable. I use reclaimed garments when I can and really like to see new life breathed into something which is not new.”
Rachel supports a charity close to her heart with her creative work. From the sale of each Type 1 messenger bag Rachel donates £5 to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a non-profit organisation which funds Type 1 diabetes research.
She said: “Nearly two years ago, my husband was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes out of the blue. This has had a huge impact on our lives and it has been a big adjustment for him. He has coped fantastically, but after he was diagnosed, he requested a bespoke bag as he would now have to carry his medical kit with him all the time. “Accordingly, the Type 1 was born. It then seemed logical to use this product to support the charity which works to help those with the condition and continues to search for a cure.
“At present, this is the only charity I support directly through the business, but it’s definitely something I would like to do more of in the future.”
Hoping to continue to offer high quality pieces as well as the custom service in the coming years, Rachel is excited for the future.
She said: “I would love to be able to expand and take on some artisan makers to allow the brand to grow and give me a chance to focus on the designing process.
“It’s key to the brand that the pieces are designed and handcrafted in Scotland and this is something I wouldn’t want to change.
“There are some brilliant designers in the north-east and further afield with whom I would love to collaborate and I would hope in the next few years I can make this happen.”
In addition to her online shop, Rachel’s products can be bought in Aberdeen’s Teasel and Tweed, The Artists’ Gallery and in Fold in Banchory.
Visit hackleybags.com for more information.