April 19, 2021
Firefighters are there when we need them. When they get a call, they drop everything, suit up, and jump in the truck. They run toward danger.
When we started Elvis & Kresse our first goal was to rescue London's decommissioned fire-hose. When we promised to donate half of our profits from our Fire-hose Collection to the Fire Fighters Charity we had no idea where this promise would take us, and what an impact it would have.
Unwittingly, but overwhelmingly willingly we have created this truly virtuous circle. Firefighters rescue us, we rescue the fire-hose, and the proceeds help to rescue firefighters and their families in their time of need.
If you are in any doubt of how vital the Fire Fighters Charity is, please read these testimonials by just a handful of the people they help:
Kevin: “It wasn’t just help with my injury, but you get help with all sorts of things, from sleep to eating healthy or mental health awareness. The range of support they have for all sorts of things, it was mind-blowing. I didn’t realise they offered half of what they do. The Fire Fighters Charity got me back to being able to work and be fully functional. In my opinion they’ve saved my career and I’ll be forever grateful to them.”
Dawn: “My husband, Lee, had a really tough time at the beginning of the year, and after nearly having a breakdown was referred to The Fire Fighters Charity,” says Dawn. “He went down to Harcombe for a week and was offered so much support and advice that really helped him. I’m forever grateful that he had somewhere to turn and somewhere to go. He took real comfort from being there during what was a very difficult time for him.”
Richard: "I’ve realised that by being here at Harcombe: they’ve saved my life, just as much as if they’d run in and dragged me out of a house fire.”
As many of you know, we are a different kind of company. We don't celebrate turnover. We celebrate tonnes of material rescued, and money donated. This year we have been able to donate almost £100,000.00, with £66,977.83 going to the Fire Fighters Charity. In this difficult year, we certainly have a lot to celebrate!
We also wanted to give you a breakdown of the kinds of things this donation will cover and how incredibly efficient the Fire Fighters Charity is;
HOW DOES OUR DONATION OF £66,977.83 TRANSLATE INTO REAL IMPACT?
£4.50: To pay for the daily disposable PPE required for therapists at one of their centres
This means our donation, just for this past year, could be covering 500 in-person physio sessions, 500 virtual physio or psychological therapy sessions & exercise therapy sessions, 500 essentials food boxes and 1550 sets of PPE for therapists. If you remember our update from last year you will have noticed that the Fire Fighters Charity has had to adapt a lot of its programmes and treatments during the pandemic.
Congratulations to the FFC for their amazing work and congratulations to all of you, for all of your support. We so wish we could all be celebrating together right now!
Discover the Elvis & Kresse Fire-hose Collection Today.
Update April 28, 2021: We just received this amazing letter from the FFC, it is incredible how resilient and adaptable they have been!
March 29, 2021
This post has been a long time coming... we have been keeping some fairly big news under wraps since December!
Two years ago we knew that Elvis & Kresse was running out of space. When we arrived at Tonge Mill in 2013 I think it is safe to say that we never thought this would happen. There were just two of us. Now there are more than 20... In order to keep our team together we needed to find something within 5 miles of the Mill. We also needed a significant amount of space.
We started looking at potential sites in the summer of 2019 and found nothing. In the summer of 2020 we found our ideal site, but we lost out when it went to sealed bids. Rather amazingly, in late November we got a call from the estate agent, the winning bidder had fallen through and now the 17 acre farm could be ours, as long as we could complete the purchase in two weeks! On December 4th we became the proud owners of New Barns Farm, but it has taken until today to move in.
Why have we bought a farm you ask?
Originally we thought of a farm because they tend to have both space and buildings, and this is true of New Barns Farm, but this isn't the main reason. One of the commitments we have made, along with many of our fellow B Corps is to be Net Zero by 2030. In addition to that, and without knowing entirely what it might entail, we would like to be Net Regenerative in that same timeframe.
This puts us in an interesting position with respect to growth. Over the last century economic growth has largely been fossil fuelled, hence a call by many environmentalists for de-growth. We aren't sure that this is the right approach; we would rather build a business that can flourish and thrive, but only if its growth has vastly more positive externalities than negative ones. We can and should grow, but only if this growth is renewably fuelled, if more materials are rescued, if we can donate more to our charity partners. On a farm we can act directly, by choosing a regenerative path we can be abundant and positive, we can dramatically increase topsoil, we can sequester carbon, we can improve biodiversity.
We have a Carl Jung quote, always hung proudly in our workshop, you may have seen it in our social posts;
If we want to be Net Regenerative then we need to get our own hands dirty. We can't offset our carbon, we have to systematically weed it out and simultaneously put the same care and love into our soil that we continue to put into our decommissioned fire-hose. It will take time and we will make mistakes, but we have already been welcomed by our new neighbours and by the wider Regenerative Agricultural community. We have found willing advisors, mentors, and inspiration both globally and locally and we can't wait to get to work!
Although we are leaving Tonge Mill, the amazing space that has been both our home and workshop for almost 8 years, we are not wistful. It is time to do more now, and the Farm is absolutely the best place for us to do just that.
As the world starts to hopefully open up again, and as our new workshop starts to take shape (oh yes, a lot of restoration awaits!), we can't wait to welcome you to the new HQ and introduce you to the herd.
Meet, from left to right: Phil, Serena, Roger, Wayne and Tiger
February 04, 2021
Hopefully this will be our only Valentine's Day in Lockdown, and our fingers are crossed that you are locked down with your loved ones.
As you know, we have an amazing partnership with The Fire Fighters Charity and we absolutely love their Valentine's Day message this year.
Who is your rock?
There are a lot of 'rocks' in the fire service and in our own lives. Sometimes you need one, sometimes you need to be one. We can't think of a better time to celebrate the ones you love who never let you down.
Here is a little more about The Fire Fighters Charity campaign:
December 28, 2020
Back in April we received a lovely message from a company we knew almost nothing about. Here is what they sent:
Of course, we said yes. And the beers are finally out! Do let us know if you spot them - they sell all across Belgium and the Netherlands.
We hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday break, now seemed like the right time to share some fun news, hoping for much more like this in 2021!
December 22, 2020
We are winding down here, the workshop will officially close at noon on the 24th of December and we will take our annual break until January 4th, 2021.
This has certainly been a challenging year but there has also been so much to be grateful for.
With almost no travel and virtually no visitors we have had the time to lay some very interesting groundwork for 2021. We have significantly expanded our R&D pipeline and our workshop is expanding... We are really looking forward to sharing more of our plans in the new year!
We wish all of you the very best for the holidays and can't wait until we can celebrate together again. All we want for Christmas is a rolled out vaccine!
Kresse (and Elvis)
December 14, 2020
Some stories take a long time to unfold. You could say that this one started over 15 years ago when a fire-hose first caught my eye. Or you could say it started around 2 years ago, when the V&A decided to host an exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out'.
In early 2019 we met the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibitions curator, Lucia Savi, when she came to see our workshop in Kent. We had an amazing conversation about the history of carrying things, the genesis of the 'bag', and how we are not, by a long shot, the first bag makers whose work challenges the status quo; the exhibition includes an anti-slavery reticule bag from 1825!
The entire process has been an absolute delight. The museum purchased our classic, decommissioned red fire-hose Weekend Bag. It is now a part of their permanent collection. A team from the V&A came to the Mill to also make a film for the exhibition which features us and one of our design heroes and past collaborators, Bill Amberg. We were asked to contribute our ship-lapped zero waste hose, our rescued parachute silk, and our circular leather system; both of these are featured in a 'how-its-made', experiential space within the exhibition.
Image courtesy of the V&A, fire-hose right, parachute silk left!
The pandemic severely stalled the launch and has unfortunately meant that a mass weaving event, designed to inspire young people to embrace the circular economy, has been shelved for now. However, the exhibition is finally live and we are so happy that it will be in situ throughout 2021.
The Elvis & Kresse Weekend Bag is a statement about reuse, revalue, creativity, and giving. It fills us with so much hope that a piece like this, which delivers and inspires a more equitable future for the planet and its people, fits right in at the world's leading art and design museum.
Image courtesy of the V&A: Can you spot our Weekend Bag?
On the 19th of March, 2021, we are also participating in a panel, hopefully at the V&A, about the future of bag design. You can learn more or sign up here.
Our Weekend Bag is now officially and forever, iconic!!!
November 27, 2020
Last night we received an extraordinary phone call.
It was Nurse Sarah McNary, someone we have never met, calling from Massachusetts. She has a rather awesome tradition for thanksgiving. It isn't about gathering with family, or eating a turkey, it's about letting someone know how grateful you are for the work that they do. She wanted to tell us how amazing it was that we turn old hoses into beautiful things and donate 50% of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity.
Sarah has been following us through our newsletters for three years. She likes to sew. She has a collection of US Military parachutes from her time serving on an American base in Germany. Just like us, she is going to upcycle them. She was full of stories about how tough the pandemic has been on her local fire crew and how their mental health is at risk. She and her partner take part in annual fundraising events to support them. She goes over with pizza, to chat, and provide informal counselling.
At this point in the call I was in tears.
Last night Nurse Sarah McNary brought the spirit of American Thanksgiving to our small Kent workshop in its purest form.
It's not everyday that you get a phone call from a hero who seems completely oblivious to their own goodness.
October 13, 2020
What is a Social Enterprise?
We are very proud to be a Social Enterprise. We are a special breed of business that exists to solve social and environmental problems and reinvests the majority (at least 50%) of its profits back into social and environmental projects. There are some big social enterprises, like the Eden Project and the Big Issue but many of them are small, in fact, around 9% of small businesses in the UK are social enterprises!
BUT. Don't mistake our size for a lack of impact. UK Social Enterprises employ 2 million people and contribute £60 Billion to the UK economy, which is about 3% of GDP.
To find a Social Enterprise near you, you can search by post code, region, mission or product/service at this link. Or look for this logo!
When you buy from a Social Enterprise you are maximising your money's positive impact on society and the environment.
For example, when you buy something from our Fire-hose Collection you are rescuing fire-hose from landfill, ensuring that it has a long and healthy second life, contributing to our annual donation to the Fire Fighters Charity, helping us to offer apprenticeships and work experience opportunities in our local community and you are supporting the manufacture of bags and belts that aren't just the best in the world, but the best for the world.
September 17, 2020
I would love to meet someone who does, I would love to hear their arguments. I would love to understand the mindset… in the same way that young FBI agent protagonists in films are so keen to study psychopaths and serial killers…
We have scientific proof that human beings are causing catastrophic climate change. We also spend most of our waking hours at work, and more than 75% of the British workforce is in the private sector. If businesses are not actively solving social and environmental problems then we shouldn’t be surprised that they are, instead, a root cause of both! If we want a healthy, happy civilisation and a planet that can continue to support all of us, then surely we need the majority of our human effort to be a part of the solution? We can’t solve these problems while we sleep. We can’t rely on the less than 25% of us that work in the public sector.
And apparently the UK public agree, with the B Lab UK and ReGenerate poll revealing that “76% of people believe business has a responsibility to protect the natural environment”.
In 2005, Elvis and I did not start a business; we initiated a rescue mission to ensure that London’s damaged, decommissioned fire-hoses would not end their lives in landfill. Our business solves waste problems. We give our fire-hoses a second life by transforming them into bags, belts, wallets and purses and then we donate 50% of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity. We don’t have a balance between purpose and profit. If we aren’t solving waste problems, there is no revenue. When you have the privilege to start something from scratch, why would you travel down a dark destructive road paved with exploitation and environmental degradation? There is another road.
We are so proud to be a social enterprise and a B Corp. B Corps legally change the constitutions of their businesses, they put it in writing; the planet and its people are at least as important as shareholders. We are part of a growing community of businesses that know we are only going to ensure a future for everyone’s grandchildren if we spend most of our working lives dedicated to solutions, collaboration, equality and diversity… we must dedicate our efforts to each other and to this beautiful earth we share. The people who start and build and work in these businesses are our heroes and peers, they are our teachers. It is through this community that we learned the most important thing that we ‘design’ is not our products, but our business itself.
This is a resilient community, it prioritises stakeholders over shareholders, and it is embedded in its community. Elvis & Kresse doesn’t have a long, complicated supply chain. We are our supply chain. We have a team of dedicated craftspeople and during the pandemic we have collectively re-choreographed everything we do to make it socially distant and safe. We have the full support of the London Fire Brigade, Brigades across the UK and the Fire Fighters Charity. We have amazing customers who have supported us throughout because our mission is just as much theirs as ours.
Our businesses represent the best of the private sector, and possibly the best thing about us is that we want everyone to join. This is not an exclusive club. We will welcome any business, with open arms, who wants to use the pandemic as a moment to pause, and rethink. This doesn’t have to be a painful transition either, embrace the idea that change does not equal sacrifice. The fashion industry represents a systemic, structural failure. It might be good for shareholders, but it has not been designed to benefit everyone in its ecosystem. The earth pays, the ocean pays, the makers pay, the farmers pay, and the consumer pays. Our products could have been made by underpaid workers or with materials and practices that destroy the environment. But why would a sane, sentient person do that? We chose, instead, to be truly creative and as a result our business is a joy to be a part of.
I can’t promise that this kind of work isn’t hard. I can tell you that it is much, much easier to motivate yourself, your colleagues and your community behind worthwhile challenges. It genuinely is more fun to make things better than to make things worse.
September 09, 2020
About a month ago we received a lovely email from a customer with a beloved family tent on her hands, it had finally given up the ghost. After years of providing shelter and happy family memories, it was no longer water proof and no longer usable as a tent.
Given that tents are often made of coated, woven nylon, and have lots of composite components and accessories they are not currently recyclable within the UK...
They are definitely reusable. Our team deconstructed the tent, cleaned it, and re-manufactured every last inch into dust covers, handles, and other pieces of packaging. Traditionally we use failed parachute silk panels for our protective dust covers, which come in green, orange, gold or white. This tent was grey and red, so if you have recently placed an order and spotted some red or grey then you have been one of the lucky ones that have helped us rescue a wonderful family tent!
Rather amazingly, the rescued fabric has contributed to 248 different pieces! We ask ourselves "Why do we need new textiles?" and "Why are tents ever abandoned?" - Why indeed!
August 31, 2020
Give this video a watch to find out why donating half of our profits is so important to us, and why we chose Barefoot College as one of our charity partners for our Fire & Hide Collection.
This clip was filmed as part of a micro-series by Elvis & Kresse late in 2019.
August 12, 2020
A product or service simply isn't 'creative' if there is a path of destruction behind it...
We made this short film because we think it is time for the creative sector to truly step up. Every person who is lucky enough to have a creative job is facing an important decision. Are they going to use their practice to fight climate change, inequality, environmental degradation, and exploitation or not.
Hopefully this makes our position clear. Elvis & Kresse are going to fight.
And when we need reminding, we just look at our rescued fire-hose wristbands. Elvis's says 'Do what makes you proud', mine says 'Do More, Be Better'.