Arran Evans, daughter of U2's the Edge, talks about her designer handbag range
Like her rock star father, U2's The Edge, Arran Evans describes herself as a perfectionist. The 32-year-old has channelled her creative into the design industry and has created her own designer leather handbag range. Jenny Lee finds out more about her design journey
DESPITE being born into a musical household, Arran Evans grew up fascinated by materials, how things work and how they are put together.
While her dad, David Howell Evans, better known by his stage name, the Edge, toured the world with Irish rock band U2, Arran pursued her love of design. She completing an art foundation course in Parsons Paris and product design at Kingston University, London. On graduating, she worked as a product designer for independent design studios, as well as internationally acclaimed designers such as Barber & Osgerby, designing everything from furniture and lighting to homeware.
After much research and experimentation in material and manufacturing methods, the 32-year-old, from Monkstown, Co Dublin, is blazing her own trail in the creative world with her elegant, timeless leather handbag brand Arran Frances.
What was your first design as a child and as a professional?
As a child, I used to make earrings and sell them in a local store in Dublin – that was my first real venture into design and the first time I ever sold anything to a stranger. The feeling was amazing and it got me hooked. As a professional I started out designing lighting, where we re-purposed lenses from train headlights into beautiful lamps. I've really enjoyed my career so far, as I've had the opportunity to design products in many different areas.
Can you tell us about the mechanical objects you designed?
Yes – that was one of the most challenging yet enjoyable times of my career so far. I used to work for a small design consultancy which was tasked with designing bespoke pieces for a private house. They were very architectural, unique pieces, which drew inspiration from brutalism. The owner had some fun ideas for us to work on, from a system to open and close a pair of heavy six-metre-long curtains, which consisted of a giant wheel and a whole system of cogs mounted on a wall, to another system for hanging and moving art around a wall.
When and why did Arran Frances begin as a brand?
I didn't start out with the intention of growing my own fashion brand – I just love to design. After designing my first bag for my sister one Christmas I became really excited about it and spent a few years experimenting with different material combinations and researching various techniques employed in the industry. I handmade handbags for everyone during that time.
Although I still love designing a wide range of different products, handbag design is where I found my niche. One design led to another and soon enough I had a collection. So I quit my job and launched the brand in October 2016. It was extremely daunting, but I've never looked back.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Honestly no, not in the conventional sense. I wasn't interested in following trends and I've never liked the feeling of being told what to wear. But I've always had a very distinct sense of style. I tend to invest in key pieces that I love from various different sources, from vintage stores to designer brands, and put them together in my own way. My mum has been a huge influence on my style which I would say is very paired down with the slightest hint of punk in there.
How many handbags do you own?
Quite a few now. I never had a huge handbag collection to start with and it's been really wonderful to be able to design pieces that I love to wear myself – pieces that look great but also function really well.
Can you tell us about the process of making your handbags?
We're always experimenting with new materials and seeing how they can have a positive impact on the user experience. We use some traditional materials in our collections too but in a different way, so there has also had to be a lot of experimentation from the manufacturing side of things. However, all of our bags are handmade by skilled artisans who have decades of experience and it's wonderful to have an open dialogue with them about how we can approach any new challenge.
Can you describe your latest handbag collection?
All of our collections are designed to offer customers beautiful handbags that are contemporary in design, but timeless in style. Our current collection focuses on transitional pieces that can be worn in a lot of different ways – bags that you can dress up or dress down and can seamlessly shift from day to night.
Where do you find your inspirations from?
My main inspiration usually comes from the materials themselves. I don't sit at my desk and sketch – it doesn't work for me. I like to start with an idea and jump straight into mocking it up in 3D and seeing how a particular construction might work.
Do your designs reflect your personality?
Definitely. I think I'm a bit of a perfectionist like my dad and I will spend a huge amount of time contemplating every minute detail until I'm satisfied it's right. But also like him, I like to discover and try out new things.
Are there any designers you look up to?
I tend to be drawn towards the indie brands who are more open to experimentation and who follow their own design language.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
Honestly, I get such a kick from seeing anyone wearing one of my bags, whoever they are.
What are your long-term aspirations for Arran Frances?
From SS19 we've decided to change the main material of our entire collection and focus solely on cruelty-free materials. I'm really excited about this move and it's going to give us the opportunity to take our sustainable efforts further. If we can make beautiful, functional handbags that are cruelty-free and truly sustainable, at a more contemporary price point that would be the ultimate goal.
Outside your job, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
It is pretty all-consuming at the moment but I have a young son, so I always make sure I make time for him. He keeps me grounded and reminds me of what is important in life.
Is there any advice that your parents gave you that you've applied to your life and career?
Both my parents instilled in me a sense that if I want something I've got to work hard for it. Nothing in life comes handed to you on a plate so I've definitely got my drive from them both. I think I get my work-ethic from my dad, who is one of my biggest champions. He's extremely supportive and is always able to break down a problem and offer great advice in a crisis.
My mum always has the best advice for any situation. One that I will always turn to is 'pick your battles'. I'm such a perfectionist at times and can get lost in minute details, so it really helps me stay focused.
:: You can see and buy Arran's designs at Arranfrances.com