When it comes to fashion, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a picture in your mind of an item you want—the colour, style, price point etc.—and being unable to find it anywhere. Faced with this problem, not many people decide to solve it by creating their own luxury leather goods line, but that’s exactly what Zurii founder Patrice Gibbons did.
Gibbons was looking for a bag that would not only look good but make her feel good, too. She wanted to know the story behind the products and who made them. Were they paid a good wage? Were the materials ethically sourced? Unable to answers these questions, she decided to create a leather goods brand with feel-good factor.
“Zurii was born out of my frustration with not being able to find the perfect handbag,” she says. “If I was spending a lot of money I wanted the bag to do more than just make me look and feel good. I wanted it to also make a positive impact in the world.
“Basically I wanted a Gucci bag with a Thank You water story. I couldn't find it. So in a moment of frustration (and I guess a little madness) I decided to create it.”
Zurii’s leather pouches, wallets, clutches, handbags and weekenders are designed in Australia and handcrafted in a small family-run atelier in Spain. This means Gibbons can ensure the production process is ethical from start to finish.
“We know where all of our materials come from, we know the team creating our pieces are well paid and receive great training, and we know their work environment is supportive and fun.
“Every zip, stitch and strap is carefully placed and perfected with a labour of love. This is what luxury meets slow fashion looks like in reality… Ethical doesn't need to mean ugly. Each day we are showing the world that luxury, beauty, style and slow fashion can combine to deliver the most gorgeous pieces.”
Although this luxury-meets-ethical approach sets Zurii apart for all the right reasons, it does make it harder for the brand to compete. “Life would be much easier if we mass-produced out of China, Bangladesh or Vietnam like so many others, but their production processes go against everything we stand for in terms of the wages and working conditions their staff endure.
“This has meant searching the globe to find a manufacturing and production team that shares our ethos. The logistical challenges, the margins and the timeframes are a constant challenge, but one I believe are totally worth it.”
As Gibbons is a big believer in using fashion to make the world a better place, she has also partnered with The Hunger Project to launch Fashion for Good, an initiative that supports 50 women and men across Africa each year with micro-finance loans and financial literacy training. This allows the recipients to start their own businesses, pay for their children’s education and become financially independent.
“This initiative is really important to me because it is at the core of everything I want Zurii to stand for—fashion for good. I am a big believer that as well as making us look great, our fashion choices can help us feel great on the inside by having an positive impact beyond our own reflection in the mirror.
“And that is what Zurii is. We are a luxury leather goods label that combines style and purpose.”
Zurii launched to trade at Life Instyle Sydney this month and is preparing to release its second collection, a range of unisex and men’s pieces, later this year.
By Ruth Cooper