As a part of the Interview with the Founder series, Alfa Vega presents the interview with Candy Bradford and Mark Bleach, the co-founders of NAVVY London. NAVVY London, a luxury leather goods brand that uses sustainable and responsibly sourced materials. At this brand's core is the synergy of form and function, pairing traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design.


Q1. What inspired you to pursue building your brand and bringing it to life?

Since childhood, Mark had the opportunity to work in his father's leather workshop during summers, surrounded by skilled leather workers. He was taught the time-honored, traditional methods of crafting leather goods and learned the importance of treating natural materials with respect. Throughout his career, where he advised brands on technical design and manufacturing, Mark grew increasingly frustrated by the compromises made to products in order to protect the bottom line. He firmly believed that it was possible to create beautiful pieces without compromising on the quality of materials or construction. After collaborating with me, it became evident that we both shared the same values regarding materials and construction, despite having distinct design ideas.

Q2. What were the biggest challenges you faced in launching your brand?

Navvy was established in 2018, and our first collection was launched in 2023. However, our launch was somewhat delayed by the COVID pandemic. Prior to that, it took us a considerable amount of time to perfect our initial collection. Both of us were still working for another brand, trying to squeeze in pattern drafting whenever possible. As newcomers in the fashion world, it can be quite intimidating. Overcoming self-doubt and gaining the confidence to showcase our work to the world was one of our biggest challenges. In design, there's always something you feel could be improved upon; it's the nature of the craft—it's never truly finished!

Q3. Why do you believe sustainability in the fashion industry is crucial?

It is evident that as designers, we bear a tremendous responsibility and, more importantly, an opportunity to ensure that our creations have minimal impact on the environment. The fashion industry revolves around the production of physical items, introducing new products into the world. We possess extensive knowledge regarding the detrimental effects of waste and greenhouse gases on our planet, as well as the disparity between working standards and living standards across the globe. Therefore, if we choose to design and introduce a product, it is our duty to do so in a manner that does not contribute to the already existing negative impact.

Q4. Can you describe the fabrics/materials used in your designs and explain why you selected them?

We dedicated a significant amount of time to finding the perfect leather for our designs. Our primary criterion was a low-impact leather—vegetable-tanned and capable of lasting a lifetime. This ensures that we introduce a product into the world with minimal environmental impact, eliminating the need for replacement. We carefully selected the finest vegetable-tanned leather available, which possesses both strength and suppleness. Its organic texture accentuates its natural origins. To complement this remarkable material, we chose solid brass fittings as a timeless hardware choice, paying homage to our historical inspiration. Over time, the brass ages beautifully in harmony with the leather.

Q5. What sets your products apart from others?

Navvy effectively bridges the gap between traditional leather craftsmanship and trend-driven fashion brands. We have a genuine appreciation for fashion, but we do not endorse fast fashion. Our goal is to empower individuals to express their creativity through the accessories they choose while causing minimal harm to both people and the planet. A key aspect of this commitment is our lifetime repair service. We intentionally designed our pieces to be easily repairable, although the need for repairs is highly unlikely.

Q6. Many people find working in the fashion industry fascinating. Could you describe your typical work routine?

Since there are currently only two of us, our day-to-day work is very hands-on. We handle everything ourselves, from the glamorous tasks like sketching new designs and exploring new fittings, to the less glamorous ones like unloading leather pallets and cleaning our workshop floor. This means our days are highly variable, which is refreshing, albeit occasionally hectic! A typical day might involve refining look book designs, creating new prototypes, updating parts of our website, shipping orders, repairing machines, and, of course, crafting bags.

Q7. Are there any other designers who inspire you? Who is your fashion idol, as well as in other areas?

My background is in Costume Design, which shares similarities with fashion design in terms of enabling wearers to express their personality, beliefs, and ideas through clothing. However, in Costume Design, we strive to amplify this message as much as possible! That being said, Prince is my idol. I believe he was able to utilize his art in various forms, including music, clothing, films, and even his home. His unapologetic display of personality in everything he presented to the world is truly inspiring.

Q8. Do you have a specific style in mind when designing your products, or do you experiment with different styles throughout the entire creation process?

We draw inspiration from the Navvies of the Industrial Revolution, who were engineer builders responsible for constructing modern Britain. They dug canals and tunnels, built railways, viaducts, and bridges that we still rely on today. We not only admire their remarkable achievements but also resonate with the values of creating long-lasting, high-quality creations where the engineering itself becomes a beautiful feature. Some of the most stunning and renowned structures in the UK, such as St Pancras Station and the Forth Bridge, embody these ideas and values. They serve as the foundation of Navvy and remain at the forefront of our minds throughout the entire design and manufacturing process.

Q9. Where do you envision your brand in the near future?

We have numerous exciting ideas in the pipeline! We are currently researching and designing for our next collection, which includes the development of some thrilling new pieces. Additionally, we hope to collaborate with other craftspeople in fields like weaving, ceramics, and printmaking. These collaborations have sparked fascinating ideas that are expanding the possibilities for the types of pieces we can create.

Q10. Which aspects of your production process have evolved over time and why?

We continually strive to streamline our production process, which leads to ongoing adjustments and adaptations as we produce more and more bags. Small changes, such as altering the sequence of cutting pieces or creating stencils to assist with panel marking, can have a significant impact on the overall process. These improvements enable us to assemble each piece effectively and efficiently.

Discover NAVVY London and their high-quality and stylish leather goods on Alfa Vega: