(Re)thinking Global: Colville

In this series, we talk to some of the designers and brands we’re offering at Pylon about how the pandemic is impacting the international aspects of their work. Today we connect with Colville designers Molly Molloy and Lucinda Chambers as well as the brand’s director of sales, Tomorrow’s Rebecca Miller. One of the things that drew us to Colville to begin with is their dedication to developing products with small groups of artisans around the world. The Colville cylinder bag—a brightly woven, Colombia-made, Italy-finished tote that we’re excited to share in our opening collections—is one such item, so we used it as the centerpiece of our conversation. 

“I met a Colombian woman on the beach years ago in Mexico; she was selling these beautiful handwoven bags. I bought one that day, but I wanted to keep in touch with her so I could buy more for holiday gifts,” Molly recalled. “Then when we started Colville I had the idea to partner with them, the Wayúu tribespeople, to produce bags together. At first we wanted them to weave the Colville name into them, but they didn’t want to do that. They only like doing their designs, and they only work when they’re happy and feeling good. So they used the Colville colors instead, with their designs. We then have the bags finished in Italy by fine leather workers.” 

Molly went on to tell us that while they were only able to commission 35 pieces from the Wayúu for the coming season, they were told that that equates to a month’s wages for the women who did the weaving. And while the reopening and ultimate stability of the leather studios in Italy hangs in uncertainty, the Colville team is content with taking small steps and navigating the unknowns. 

“Our point of view is always going to be, ‘Let’s try it and see,’” says Lucinda. “We’re never not going to do this kind of collaborative work. Maybe it becomes a more circuitous route, but that kind of route is always more interesting anyway. The only certainty is uncertainty, and we believe in making things that are meaningful and authentic.” 

“We have always imagined Colville to be a creative collective,” Molly says. “I want to always be able to meet a woman on the beach and have that connection turn into a product that benefits everyone involved. Upcycling and repurposing—those things weren’t strategic at first. We didn’t initially think of those projects as having a social purpose per se. We simply enjoy the process. As women, we are naturally collaborative. The cylinder bags, they really bring people together, and that feels good.” 

Switching gears to think about the industry at large, Lucinda told us: “It’s so inspiring to see designers, editors, CEOs—everyone in fashion—working together right now, sharing ideas with Business of Fashion on Instagram and talking about how we will reshape this industry. As we start going forward again, people are going to question everything. If it feels too lavish, if it feels too excessive, it won’t sit well with people. Our industry has to reevaluate everything from fashion week and the season schedule to the very collections. Designers have been fatigued for a long time now; they don’t want to keep churning out more, more, more.  How does the quote go—‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’ We will all learn from this.” 

“There’s got to be a new flexibility because there will be delays, there will be surprises. We will need massive understanding around delivery windows—the timing of product launches is going to change. And end users must understand that things are changing, but I believe we all want the same thing: a better quality of life for all,” concludes Molly.  

While thinking, shopping, and sourcing locally will always be an incredibly important process, the Colville designers remind us that acting globally—when it’s done right; with purpose, with respect, with patience—is just as socially responsible. One of the things that this pandemic is giving us, if we’re open to receiving it, is a clear picture of how very much all of us on earth need one another.