Interview: Julie Deane – Cambridge Satchel Company Founder

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Julie Deane founded The Cambridge Satchel from her kitchen table in 2008. Her colourful handmade leather satchels were an instant hit with fashion bloggers and magazines alike. The Cambridge Satchel company design is based on an original Oxford and Cambridge satchel and sells across the globe from Harrods to Bloomingdales. Julie’s inspirational story from the kitchen table to catwalk is featured in the latest Google Chrome advert. We caught up with Julie Deane for the latest in our interview series – The London Fashion Lowdown.


1. When did fashion/a sense of personal style first become important to you? At school I was unsure – fashion was something that some girls in my class seemed to have nailed down. I think at that age there was one accepted look that everyone followed. It would have been brave to attempt a personal style! I think for me I became more comfortable with myself and what I liked during University and by the time I had my first job I knew I preferred simple, classic lines. The final step in daring to be myself followed a break up with a long-term boyfriend – I went on a bit of a shopping spree, finally feeling I could suit myself, it was very liberating and from then on I decided to go with what I liked, rather than conform or make someone else happy.


2. Who is your style icon (living or dead)? Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly – classic style icons. In everyday life? My mother, probably the most groomed woman I have ever met.


3. How would you describe London style? London style always seems a little more gritty and real to me, it’s aspirational yet achievable – not about labels, more the complete look.


4. If you could live anywhere else in the world where would it be (and why)? I lived in America for five years and that was a really good experience. My family and I do love Cambridge and at the moment, with the children young and at a great school it’s perfect for us. But…… my favourite place is Skiathos – the peace, the light, the amazing colour of the sea . It’s where I feel happiest and we go whenever we can.


5. Limited to just a suitcase, which items from your wardrobe would you have to take with you? My plain black top, a really cosy jacket I bought at Jaeger last year, my long, straight skirts, black court high shoes and black pumps – and I need my gardening gloves! There is also a wool and silk-mix scarf that I was given about five years ago, it’s dark red, brown and black, I’d take that along, too. My Grandmother’s lucky charm bracelet and a beaded necklace from Skiathos that seems to have caught the light and colour of the sea and a pair of earrings my daughter bought me in a park in Barcelona. She was 11 and used her pocket money.


6. What are your most used grooming/beauty products? A really good electric toothbrush (teeth, a make or break), day-to-day I tend to use Olay, something like the Regenerist or Total Effects. If I want to treat myself or buy a friend something special I go for YSL or Lancome – one of the serums. I love the concentrates and they make your skin feel like silk. Also Max Factor for foundation, Chanel for blush, Rimmel for lips.


7. When and where did you look your best? My wedding day, undoubtedly! Everything seemed to look right all on one day and with all of those photos it was very much appreciated! My husband is very kind and says I look better now but I look back and wish I had had more confidence in how I looked. So often we are so critical of ourselves. I had a fantastic dress from a young designer in Chicago that had a straight skirt and long trailing train that buttoned up to become almost a bustle, then it came off for a super sleek reception look. I still have it, perhaps Emily will want it someday.


8. Which is your favourite season of the year (and why)? I love Spring – the daffodils, tulips – the sense that sunny weather is ahead – not that it always delivers on that promise!


9. Who in your own family most influenced your sense of style? My mother, she looks flawless and so put together – everyone who visits Cambridge Satchel comments on her, she’s so glamourous.


10. If life was a movie, which film would you most like to live in? A Good Year (with Russell Crowe, he was in the film but could stay!) where a busy, stressed London City worker gets left a vineyard in Provence and ends up staying there. It’s a warm and lovely film. Sometimes life can be too hectic. Taking a step back and enjoying a simpler, slower pace is a very good thing.


11. Which grooming or fashion mistakes most irk you in others? Slavish copying of a look that obviously makes someone uncomfortable is uncomfortable for those around them too. When someone feels good in what they are wearing then it becomes a look that is well carried.


12. Cat or dog? Dog, dog, dog!! My dog Rupert comes everywhere with me, he is even in the Google advert, such a gentle boy. He is big for a boxer but still needs to sit on my lap. It means I can’t see anything else but his back but it’s fine. Rupert comes in to Cambridge Satchel each day, he is well loved and adds enormously to the charm of the place.


13. What lesson would you pass on to younger people following in your shoes? Follow your dreams and don’t discount things you do along the way – all of the jobs and qualifications I took have given me something – something that has helped me get where I am now. Make the most of every experience and get all you can from it, that usually means starting with a great attitude, even if you’re not super excited about that particular thing. Do everything with gusto!


14. What motivates you in your career? The wonderful feedback we get. We love reading the reviews and seeing the reaction to the bags we come out with, be they new ranges or new collaborations. The Chris Benz collaboration has just been viewed at New York Fashion Week and the reaction has been incredible.


15. If you could trade looks with anyone who would that person be? I’m a great believer in being comfortable with yourself and so I am what I am, I don’t waste time worrying about what I can’t change and this would fall into that bracket.


16. What category of clothing are you most drawn to/are most likely to overspend on? Accessories. My clothing tends to be the base and the accessories are what I focus on.


17.Which is your most treasured sense? Sight – the sea in Skiathos, my dog sunning himself in the garden, the children doing something insane… colour, smiles, I treasure them.


18.Name three elements of a perfect holiday? No phone, warm sunny weather and my family.


19. If you could change a single aspect of your appearance what would it be? I work with what I have, I encourage others to do the same, don’t fixate on the bits you’re not happy with or you’ll end up concentrating on the negatives when the positives are so much more important.


20. Your ideal lunch venue and guest? The Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester with my very good friend Alice.

SHOP: The Cambridge Satchel Company


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