Victoria Bolt, or Tor to her friends, runs the sustainable accessories brand HANGA. As well as being a full time Mum to her two kids, she started making her own plant hangers with materials from her local hardware store and from then developed her business into a successful independent sustainable brand. The self taught designer has been featured in British Vogue and has grabbed the attention of many a person on Instagram making her go to for your everyday bag needs. She has created colourful bags and planters that are a very fresh, modern take on accessories. So I wanted to chat with Tor to find out how her creative background in Fine Art influences her designs, how lockdown has effected her design process and why it is important to her that all her materials are sourced from ethical and sustainable sources in the UK.
Images Courtesy of @h_a_n_g_a_
The 'ROPE' Bag
What made you decide to set up HANGA?
"I come from a creative background and I studied Fine Art at Uni in Bristol. I made the decision after having our children to be a full time Mum - once Tilly started school I started making very basic plant hangers for our house, I'm completely self taught with what I do, this led to me making and selling to friends, then friends of friends and from there Hanga has organically grown."
Where does you love of vintage inspired accessories come from?
"I guess I've always had a creative eye and an eclectic style - that goes for my personal style and interiors. I love mixing new and old, nestling second hand up against modern and clean pieces. Hanga is a sustainable brand, vintage inspired - but my pieces are clean and current."
Where did you learn to make your own pieces?
"I'm completely self taught! The first hangers I made were knotted with jute, that I had bought from our local hardware shop. They were so simple and basic, but they did the job, haha. I then researched higher quality ropes and yarns - as colour is very important to me and I wanted this to be a big part of what I do. Once I'd settle on the rope I liked working with, I spent hours learning better knots - I'm a perfectionist, so I never settle for mediocre. A friend of mine messaged me and asked if I would consider making her a handbag - she put her trust in me, I sketched some ideas and that's how my first bag was born!"
Can you explain a little bit about your design process?
"My design process is fairly standard - I have an idea, start with sketching, this includes working out sizing, rope quantities, knot styles etc. Then I crack on and make the prototype! Often designs change slightly as I'm making, as I find better ways of finishing a piece, or I make changes here and there. My hangers are a standard size and stretch to accommodate most pots, they currently come in two knots styles. I make a variety of bags, by most popular are my Rope Bags - they come as standard, so once I'd sketched and finalised measurements, I follow this every time. The first time I make anything it takes me hours - my first Rope Bag took me 8, over time I get quicker and more confident, I guess that's like anything. I've become a real night owl, especially since lockdown - as I have to really concentrate when measuring rope lengths when starting something new - having the kids at home, means this is pretty much impossible. So I use small windows of time during the day to crack on with admin/ emails etc and then all the 'making' happens at night. I normally neck a coffee at 9pm and then work through until 1/2 am."
How do you source sustainable and recyclable materials for your pieces?
"My rope all comes from a very small family run business in Devon - we've become very familiar now! I try as much as I can to order rope in large quantities and they are great at facilitating this. My hanger hoops and keychains rings are both sourced from small businesses in Birmingham, so super close. All my packaging is made from recycled brown paper and card and my bright orange mail bags are recycled too - it's taken me a while to source these, but sustainability is really important to me and I wanted that to echo through my brand."
What inspires you creatively?
"I take inspiration from everywhere - books, art, magazines, fashion - I guess 'I like what I like', this has resulted in me turning some work down, as the aesthetic didn't feel right and I want to ensure I'm sticking to my guns and staying true to myself."
How would you describe your aesthetic?
"I guess vintage inspired, macrame was huge in the 70s, so I'm keeping it alive - but in a clean and modern way."
Why is sustainability important to you?
"Fast fashion is one of the biggest causes of the climate crisis - I believe in making things to last, looking after what you already have and encouraging people to question who has made their clothes, accessories etc. I hand-make everything I sell, using 100% recycled ropes - they are made slowly and carefully - with the aim to last you a long time. Buying mass produced pieces - I believe is soulless, owning a bespoke, handmade item, carries far more weight and sends a clear message."
The 'TULIP' Bag
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to set up their own online shop?
"I guess if you have an urge to do something - whatever that may be, to just frigging go for it! For most of my life I suffered with low self esteem and a lack of confidence within myself and I've come to realise that I was holding myself back. Lots of factors almost fell into place and I felt like for me it was 'now or never'. Putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to other people's opinions and critiques - can be really scary, but other people's opinion's are none of your business, so I keep my blinkers up, stick to my guns are continue to work hard at what I do."
What plans do you have in store next for HANGA?
"To be stocked with more shops - I'm currently working on two large orders for two more Independent Shops, so watch this space!"
Follow HANGA on Instagram - @h_a_n_g_a_
And check out their website - www.hangastore.com
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