Honey & Toast produce beautiful handmade leather bags for littles
Words Holly Kirkwood
Making beautifully crafted bags for kids is something not many brands are doing. Honey & Toast intends to rectify this by offering top-quality handmade bags and satchels which children can love and keep for years, designed in London and produced in Somerset.
Having worked in the accessories industry for 15 years, for brands including Paul Smith, Alice Temperley and Mary Katrantzou, H&T founder Emma White found herself, as so many of us do, at a crossroads in her career when she became a mum. She loved what she did, but she needed more flexibility in her work/life balance after the birth of her daughter, Erin.
“Bags was definitely an area which was neglected when it comes to kids – there wasn’t anything out there that wasn’t cupcakes and flowers for girls, or fire engines and superheroes for boys,” Emma explains.
“Starting my own business was something I’d always wanted to do, and I just thought it’s now or never.” She began work on some designs at home in Peckham, and Honey & Toast was born. The brand is named after the only thing her little girl – now four – would eat when she was feeling fussy: Emma remembers so many days when it was ‘Will it be honey and toast again, then?”
Emma, who now also has a 16-month old boy, Ellis, feels that bags should be able to last a lot longer than cheap backpacks do: “The thing about bags is they don’t get outgrown like clothes: instead a child can keep them for years, from before they start nursery and well into their school years.”
Sustainability is a watchword for the brand. “We want to make beautiful, long-lasting things that children can keep, but we also want to make sure our footprint is as small as possible, so all our bags are made with leather from the Midlands and solid colours from Holland.”
The factory in Somerset where each bag is hand made is a family business which Emma knew from previous jobs.
The current collection consists of the cleverly designed Rocket scooter satchel, the Ellison backpack satchel, the Etter saddlebag and super cute little Pippin Purses, all of which come with a play coin inside for good luck. Useful as school bags, for PE kits, for a playdate or a party, they come in different shapes and sizes to suit different needs.
When it comes to the aesthetic, Honey and Toast is very much riffing on the old school satchel look. The shapes are simple and functional, but the strong colours and prints ensure the pieces feel very modern. The prints are dreamed up in lots of different ways, but inspired by adventures kids love reading about and imagining, from space rockets to monsters. Because Erin loves exploring the garden, and spotting bugs and snails, they she and Emma up making the garden design together.
Some lovely little touches also add to the appeal: the soft, suede-lined flaps, antique brass hardware and gold foil details all add to the quality feel. Plus, all of the cross body Pippin Purses come with their very own play coin inside- for good luck.
All the pieces are gender neutral – Emma says she’s pleased to see boys are loving the new leopard print design, for instance.
In the beginning she was selling more bags for girls than boys – “mums tend to carry bags more than dads, and girls always want to copy their mums” – but increasingly she’s seeing them on boys around London.
There is also definitely an appeal which goes beyond children wanting to copy mum or dad: the look and feel of the bags taps straight into parents’ nostalgia for their own childhoods, when leather satchels were common as schoolbags. It’s a powerful emotion, and Emma often gets asked to make bags in larger sizes for adults – something she can do when she has time, although it’s not the direction she wants to ultimately head in.
H&T also offer a bespoke service which has proved popular: parents can order bags to be initialled or printed with their children’s names on. Or for something even more personal, parents can scan in doodles, or even their child’s writing to be recreated as a sort of ultimate personalisation. “What I’m really enjoying is seeing how creative people can be when they’re looking at the bespoke option. We love working with parents to make something which is really special to them and their kids, and really whatever someone’s idea is, we always enjoy making it happen,” she explains.
Here at Absolutely Mama we love these bags so much – we can’t think of a better present for a little one for their birthday, or on their first day at school or nursery. If you want a bespoke piece, make sure you order ahead: Emma’s getting busier all the time.
Read more on children’s fashion at www.absolutely-mama.co.uk