Elvis & Kresse Q&A: Upgrading Waste and Material Reputations

Accessories brand Elvis & Kresse began with a mission to save London’s decommissioned firehose from landfill. Over ten years later, their unique approach to design is going strong and they’ve set their sights on new materials streams to reuse.  

We spoke to co-founder Kresse Wesling to find out more about the brand’s journey so far and where it’s going next.

 

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Kresse (left) and her co-founder Elvis

 

How did Elvis & Kresse begin?

We first fell in love with London’s damaged, decommissioned hoses in 2005. After a chance meeting with the London Fire Service we learned that these beautiful hoses would otherwise go to landfill and knew instinctively that we could save them.

Elvis & Kresse was launched specifically to rescue the hose and to give 50% of profits associated with our fire-hose range to the Fire Fighters Charity.

 

Why did you choose fire hose as a material for making your collections?

The fire hose definitely chose us, as most of our materials do.

Designers traditionally start with a design, a product that they would like to make. They then go out into the world and acquire the materials they need to achieve that design.

We work in the opposite direction. We start with a material problem, a niche waste, and then design products that make the best possible use of this resource.

 

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What other materials have you experimented with for your designs?

This is a long list indeed as we are constantly experimenting. We always have three questions that we ask when we are considering a new material.

  1. Is this something we are particularly suited to saving?
  2. Can we solve the whole problem? (We were never interested in saving a few of London’s hoses, we wanted to save all of them and have been doing just that since the very beginning.)
  3. Can we solve this problem sustainably?

If the answer to each of these questions is yes then we take genuine responsibility for these material flows. This means that although we experiment widely we dedicate ourselves to just over 10 materials including the hose, scrap parachute silk, tea sacking, printing blankets and most recently, post-industrial leather scrap.

 

Recycled materials are often seen as second-rate or poorer quality than conventional materials, how do you try to combat this at Elvis & Kresse?

New fire-hoses would be an unaffordable raw material. Their quality and durability are both exceptional which is why the fire service does everything it can to repair and maintain them, keeping them in active service for as long as possible.

As the raw material is absolutely first-rate we ensure that the quality of our design and construction can live up to these incredible hoses. This is the only way to honour the material.

We try to combat this misperception about recycled materials with the true story behind our materials and an obsessive commitment to quality in our work. 

Elvis & Kresse
Luggage Tag

Elvis & Kresse
Fire & Hide Tote Bag

Elvis & Kresse
Medium Washbag

Elvis & Kresse
Overnight Bag

Elvis & Kresse
Skinny Stitch Belt

Elvis & Kresse
Reclaimed Leather Cube

 

Do you have a particular person in mind when designing? Who do you think the Elvis & Kresse customer is?

I love this question – and the answer is no. We don’t design for seasons (seasonality is one of the least sustainable aspects of our industry) and we don’t design for individuals. We look at patterns of use and classic shapes that have been consistent over many decades and then we work on embedding as much quality and longevity as possible.

If you design for a particular person or for ‘right now’ then you miss the opportunity to create something timeless.

 

Do you have a favourite piece from the current collection?

I love the Fire & Hide Clutch – it is such a versatile piece. It comes with a strap that can be used to carry the bag several ways and also removed for a sleek, simple look. 

 

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What’s next for Elvis & Kresse?

There are 800,000 tonnes of leather scrap generated annually, globally. This is by far our largest material challenge. The majority of our next steps will revolve around solving this problem and realistically this could keep us busy for decades to come!

Click or tap the Butterfly Mark to discover the Positive Actions that make Elvis & Kresse a brand to trust: 

 

 

If you enjoyed this, you might like to read Redesigning Materials: Second Time Around.

Sophie Corfan