The Interview: Nika Diamond-Krendel, Founder, Paradise Row

Paradise Row has quickly become a favourite sustainable brand amongst the London street style set. Hand crafted in East London, Paradise Row creates low carbon footprint handbags and leather accessories which contribute to its local community.

When Founder, Nika Diamond-Krendel, first discovered how East London was once home to a booming manufacturing and textile industry, she wondered why an area that is internationally known for its designers didn’t seem to be experiencing the industrial impact of this movement. She tells us more:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born in Cheshire and moved to London in 2009 to do my Business Psychology Masters at Goldsmiths. This is when I fell in love with London and the creativity of my peers. My passion for design rose to the foreground and first sparked the idea of creating a brand working directly with local creatives and specialists

Upon completion of my masters, I took a role first as a consultant at Informa, then in-house at Santander. Here I created and presented workshops, and won Santander’s Mobile App Designer of the Year; which gave me the confidence to take the leap and move into a more dynamic and creative career.

When did you launch and what was the initial response?

I launched the brand in early 2017. Having spotted a gap in the market for high-quality bags at an accessible price point, and further fuelled by a desire to support the area’s declining leather goods industry, I set about creating a collection of my own, working with long-established leather workers in the area.

The response was amazing, people really fell in love with the story of the CORE collection, inspired by key pillars of the East London community.

After the first collection, local establishments such as Town Hall Hotel, Petersham Nurseries and other hospitality companies wanted to be part of Paradise Row’s social initiative and wanted them to create products for them which were handcrafted and not mass produced. They were passionate about the story and we realised we had started a social movement and so wanted to be a catalyst and inspiration to other brands.

 

Did you identify a gap in the market?

Yes, I felt there wasn’t a brand out there that produced high-quality bags, with timeless yet unique designs, at an accessible price point.

What is your brand identity/USP?

We champion & cherish East London’s heritage & talent. Paradise Row works with a local team to help preserve the ailing craft of the leather industry alongside partnering exclusively with local creatives to promote the area’s talent; all of who live within just a few miles. Through every thread, cut and design, you can see the inspiration from the area our trade chain resides in; nothing is more authentically East London.

What items do your collections include?

We refer to ourselves as a studio, we produce one handbag collection a year and create leather accessories as well as bespoke pieces for establishments such as Town Hall Hotel and most recently Petersham Nurseries.

What’s your favourite piece? 

I can’t choose between all of them because it depends on my mood, the season, what I’m wearing; it changes between the collections. I think that’s the beauty of the designs as they remain classic as all the colours are earthy tones with gold hardware; so they’re really timeless. I switch between favourites every other week!

 

Paradise Row Empathy Bag

What is the design process at Paradise Row?

The design process … it’s quite a slow process. I come up with the concept first and the theme for the collection that I want to discuss which is important to me. Different aspects of society that I think should be discussed.

The three collections launched so far have represented culture, psychology and female representation within the arts. Once I come up with the concept, I think about themes within these concepts that I want to bring up. For example, the EMPATHY collection is inspired around what it means to be empathetic, so each bag represents the 5 different emotions which make up an empathetic person.

Once the themes & concepts are established, that’s when we start talking about the design. I’ll sketch them out and the workshop will create a first sample for us to look at. The full sample takes about 4 or 5 months to become finalised, and then the production team will start producing.

Paradise Row Empathy Collection

So far, what are some of the key challenges that you have faced as a sustainable/ethical fashion brand?

Paradise Row is all about producing locally, but the industry here isn’t as strong as it is abroad. A lot of London bands manufacture abroad as the supply chain is more streamlined. In London, you are really relying on limited resources.

There’s only a handful of leather workshops, only one leather tool maker who produces the knives to make the bags, there’s just a few leather wholesalers, etc. Options are limited, but our aim to increase visibility of the local manufacturers and urge London brands to produce locally and bring back life to the leather making trade.

What is the future for Paradise Row?

We’ve had amazing traction from our collections and the first collection is still selling incredibly well which confirms that each design is timeless and not trend led, but design led and thought provoking. This cements us more as a lifestyle brand than a fashion brand, so we are looking to expand into a fully-fledged lifestyle brand and diversify the product range.

What advice would you give to someone starting up a fashion business?

You need to look at whether you’re producing a service or a product business. If it’s a product business, you need substantial investment to start. Production is a huge, huge cost.

Running a business is all encompassing; sales, marketing, design, supply chain, etc. It’s not something you can do on the side if you want to do it right. I’d recommend really looking at all the elements you need to run a cohesive business and see whether you can realistically manage these or whether you need to out-source.

Also start making contacts before you launch the business; it’s hard to launch when you have no industry relationships, so it’s good to start working on those as soon as possible.

Finally, I would also recommend starting an Instagram page prior to the launch to build up hype around your brand.