Samm Collins, Founder of Samm Designs

Repurposing fabric off-cuts into bespoke, handmade handbags

Aged 56 and living in a small town on the Isle of Wight, job opportunities weren’t great. The two-year project I’d been leading – refurbishing our home – was nearly complete. What would I do next?

Sending out a message to the universe, I joined my husband on a trip to our local upholsterers to collect some chairs we’d had re-covered. Scraps of beautiful fabric were scattered all over the floor. I found it heart-breaking and asked: “What do you do with those?”

The upholsterer replied: “Put them in a bin bag for the rubbish man to collect!”

“Promise me you’ll never do that again; ring me and I’ll take them,” I said.

My business was born that day and I’ve been using the off-cuts ever since to make bespoke handbags with a bit of ‘Wow!’ If you want a black or brown bag, you can walk into any shop and buy one. My bags are for my fellow magpies: people who love colour!

It takes me all the way back to my childhood… mum was a dressmaker and there was always a sewing machine on the table. I used it to make dresses for my dolls. Later, I trained in stage management and theatre design; you use a lot of fabric on set! In the ‘80s, I set up a handmade knitwear business before folding it to work for other people.

Design has been my passion since I was tiny, but I also feel strongly about the waste we’re creating as a society. My hope is that my customers will look at my bags and think: ‘What else could I use in a different way?’ Recycling is so much more than putting things into three bins!

I opened my Etsy shop 18 months ago and I took a job at the local self-storage unit one day a week. (A little bit of guaranteed money helps!) When it’s quiet, they let me do a bit of cutting out and sewing. Being active on social media – promoting my products – pays off, but there’s very little business support for makers.

So many women launch crafting businesses because the jobs market doesn’t fit; we need a government-led initiative for creatives!

Samm Designs