Recycle, reduce, reuse - those three words have never looked this good, especially when done with de-commissioned fire hoses. With strong eco-ethos and a brigade of talented craftsman, Elvis & Kresse is re-defining the meaning of durable goods. And we like what we see so we had a chat with them to understand the story behind the brand.
It takes a lot of ingenuity to see new possibilities in something old - what was your “aha” moment for working with de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses?
We didn’t really have an ‘aha’ moment - it’s been a long journey of discovery to get to where we are. In 2005 Kresse, my co-founder, met a fire-man from the London Fire Brigade at an environmental conference. He mentioned to her that one of their most pernicious waste streams was their de-commissioned fire-hose. Up to that point the vast majority of it was going straight to landfill. Kresse seemed to take a personal responsibility for this hose waste and roped me in for the ride. The first thing we did was tile the roof of our shed and even though it looked great and served a purpose, we knew that roof tiles would not provide a sustainable solution to the problem.
Soon after that, I made our first piece - a very simple belt…. and that’s where it all started. We now work with fantastic craftsmen who are able to help us re-engineer the London Fire Brigade’s old hoses into desirable life-style accessories…. bags, belts, wallets, cufflinks - you name it.
You seem to approach your designs with a full-circle and holistic point of view (donating 50% of profits and creating up-cycled shopping bags for Sainsbury). Are there any specific challenges you face that may differ from other companies that do “business as usual”?
Our hope is that one day the Elvis & Kresse way of doing business will become “business as usual”. But until that point we have the same difficulties that all companies face, with a few additional complications added in along the way. It’s not easy but it is definitely worth it.
Have you found yourselves in any messy situations while sourcing discarded materials to reuse in your designs and packaging?
We reclaim waste - things that other people have discarded and deemed worthless. We regularly find ourselves sifting through the trash of large companies to work out what we can re-use. But then, after rigorous cleaning, a good deal of ingenuity and some fine craftsmanship it is no longer waste but a valuable commodity. One of my proudest moments was when I first saw an Elvis & Kresse bag in a store with a security tag on it (the type that can only be removed with a special tool), knowing that just weeks before the raw materials were lying outside somewhere, discarded, probably in the rain!
The fire-hose bags look like they can handle anything - what has been the biggest adventure you’ve taken yours on?
The fire-hose itself has been in active duty for anything up to 30 years (some of the hoses have the date they were made stamped right on them, so we can tell) so they are definitely strong and built to last. I still wear the first belt I made every day in our workshop, it has been with me on the whole Elvis & Kresse journey, which has in-turn been the greatest adventure of my life so far.