5 minutes with….Cameron Saul from BOTTLETOP
Known as one of the most pioneering sustainable British fashion brands, BOTTLETOP’s debut line featuring rescued bottle tops from Kenya and leather offcuts from Mulberry was an overnight international hit when it launched in 2002. As we celebrate Earth Day 2020 and the launch of BOTTLETOP on MY WARDROBE HQ, we caught up with co-founder Cameron Saul to discuss the brand’s journey so far and what positive changes he hopes will come out of the current COVID-19 crisis…
Why was it important for you to establish the Bottletop foundation alongside the brand?
For the first 10 years BOTTLETOP existed just as a foundation to raise much needed funds for grass-root charities who are doing incredible work across the world. This has been our core aim since we launched BOTTLETOP back in 2002. We launched the for-profit arm in 2012 as a way to scale up our operations and try and help more communities who are struggling.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far as a brand? The biggest challenge we have faced is making our products as sustainable as possible. We mostly use up cycled materials in our production and try and source them as locally as possible to reduce the carbon footprint which can be tricky. The leather we use in some of our bags is the world’s only certified Zero Deforestation leather; it was important the leather we use isn’t only a by-product of the meat industry and the cattle are treated well but that the rainforest hasn’t been harmed in their rearing. This type of leather didn’t exist before and we worked closely with local farmers on the ground to make it happen.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far as a brand? Making our products as sustainable as possible is always a major challenge. We mostly use up-cycled materials in our production and source them as locally as possible to reduce the carbon footprint which can be tricky. The leather we use in our designs is certified Zero Deforestation leather; it was important the leather we use isn’t only a by-product of the meat industry and the cattle are treated well but that the rainforest hasn’t been harmed in their rearing.
What are you most proud of since the launch of the brand and equally the foundation?
Our proudest moments are always when we spend time with artisans or visit projects that have benefitted from our supprt through the BOTTLETOP Foundation. In 2012 we also launched the BOTTLETOP atelier in Salvador, Brazil. We trained women from the area to become artisans. The atelier now provides skills and livelihoods to over 30 people and has been transformational for those involved from the local community.
What’s next for the brand? Any collaborations or technical initiatives?
We are extremely lucky to partner with Narciso Rodriguez who has been designing on ongoing capsule collection with us since 2014. Next season, we will be collaborating with another exceptional designer who is famous for his use of colour and making a statement. We continue to work on the development of several potentially transformational sustainable materials.
Who inspires you creatively? I’m inspired by the cultures and communities in which we work as well as myriad figures from across the creative spectrum. Artists Adriana Varejao, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Sarah Sze always astound me. The Campana Brothers. Duro Olowu and Craig Green are two designers that I really admire. I love the work of the photographer Jackie Nickerson and I’m listening to a lot of early Caetano Veloso.
What changes would you like to see the fashion industry adopt as a result of the Covid-19 crisis?
We all have a responsibility to care for the planet. I would love to see more brands introducing collections that are less season-driven, utilise more upcycled materials without creativity being hindered. We started BOTTLETOP with the idea all our designs should be timeless and passed through generations; they tell stories of positive impact but are inherently good for the environment, whether they are upcycled or biodegradable.
How important is it to support communities both locally and farther afield?
We started the BOTTLETOP Foundation with the dual purpose of creating skills and livelihoods for artisans through sustainable design and empowering young people to make healthy choices and protect themselves. Over the years we have supported incredible programs in London, East Africa, Brazil and Nepal – all the regions where we create collections. Our mission is about creating a holistic impact; empowering both the individuals and the wider community.