The Ivory Coast meats Danish design in Yvonne Koné’s namesake line of artisan leather goods that is created with a large focuses on color combinations, and finding the right balance between shapes, lines and materials. Wanting to keep the production close to home, the founding designer has located both sourcing of materials and production to Tuscany, working mainly with Italian vegetable tanned or deadstock leathers. Valuing quality, craftsmanship and timeless designs above all, we find Yvonne Koné to be yet another wonderful example of the creative calibre of Copenhagen. We asked her share her story.
What is the story behind the Yvonne Koné label?
– When I finished my education in fashion design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, all I knew was that I didn’t want to make fashion or traditional clothing collections – if clothing at all. However, as I have always been drawn towards industrial design, I really enjoyed designing bags, as the process was more similar to designing a piece of furniture, for instance. I liked the idea of a bag being a timeless shape, rather than a piece of fashion that would last a season or two.
– I founded the company in 2011 and started looking for artisans in Italy who would understand and help me develop shoes and bags without compromising on quality. I quickly learned that it was really difficult to start a production there without many contacts or being able to communicate or attract a producer with big orders. The best artisans were already working for powerful luxury houses, and I came alone, with no name, asking for the smallest quantities, and an ambition to make a good product with high respect for the craft. After two year of intensive search, I finally found a little group of specialists that work in a very dedicated way.
What materials do you work with, and how do you source them?
– I only work with Italian leather – all sourced from small family-owned tanneries in Tuscany. They are all close to the shoe and bag producer I work with, and therefore I go there all the time to follow the process, understand how they work and pick up the leather. We mainly use vegetable tanned leather, which means the process is made with natural color pigments and without chrome. It is a less harmful alternative to conventional leathers, but the color changes over time and the leather needs a lot of care compared to non-vegetable tanned leather, so it is not for everyone.
– We also use a lot of leftover leather from the bigger fashion house’s productions. In this way, we can sometimes offer leather products that would normally be too expensive. As these leathers are often stocked for many seasons, it makes sense to use them whenever possible, rather than producing something new.
“Our entire production and materials – including metal trimming, zippers, lining and packaging – are made by local Italian producers, located close to each other in Tuscany.”
Would you care to share your design and production process?
– As the products I design are classic and made to last for many seasons, I don’t develop a completely new collection each season. I try to build and develop existing models as it often takes many seasons to refine each product to perfection. I listen a lot to feedback from clients, and my team and I then try to implement the improvements whenever possible.
– The creative process is a constant flow that is never really on hold. When I’m in Copenhagen, I focus more on the administration of the company, and when in Italy, the development happens together with the artisans. So in many ways, that is where my creativity has the most natural flow. There, I can process an idea, go from a sketch directly to a 3D model and see the designs come alive before my eyes.
Tell us about your commitment towards sustainability – how is it visible in the brand?
– One of the reasons I wanted to consolidate our entire production in Italy is because it’s so close to Copenhagen, which makes it easier to understand and engage in the people and processes. I have always valued personal relationships, and one of the reasons it took me so long to find the right partners, is because I wanted people I really liked – people with high moral values. I wanted to know that the owners of the factories would treat the artisans working for them with respect and care.
– My partners are very aware of what might seem like minor details, such as sorting out garbage, saving electricity, cutting the leather very carefully to create as little waste as possible, and always improving the product in order to make it last longer. Our entire production and materials – including metal trimming, zippers, lining and packaging – are made by local Italian producers, located close to each other in Tuscany. In this way we minimize transportation too.
What can you tell us about your current collection?
– As I don’t make a completely new collection every season, but rather add a few new styles, it is more about the color story and the feeling you get when looking at the color combinations. For fall, I always love deep burgundy and greens combined with rosy and earthy tones. This season, I have also added a light baby blue and a white to accentuate the more traditional shades.
What’s up next for the brand Yvonne Koné?
– As I have so many dreams of growing the brand internationally and adding more product categories, plus opening up a shop in the US, the next step is definitely to find the right person to invest both money and intelligence in the company. But again, it needs to be someone who can share and understand my vision and aim to always make the quality better without compromising, and let the people behind the product shine.
Yvonne Koné – portrayed above – is a Copenhagen-based designer and founder of a namesake line of Italian luxury leather goods.
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