Hills & West Founder and Creative director Aisha discusses her brand’s inception, the creative process and future
1 Tell us about the process of getting Hills & West off the ground. What was it that convinced you a career change in your thirties was just what you needed?
In October of 2014, I was coming back from a work trip in Singapore and London and I had a wake-up moment where I asked myself whether what I was doing was fulfilling me in a happy and meaningful way. I wanted to follow my passions and uncover unique experiences, cultures and people. I wanted to be inspired! I thought I had created and grown so many other people’s businesses, why not do it for myself.
2 What was your first product and what process did you follow in creating it?
The Morgan 3 in 1 backpack, in black, is my first piece and has been the best seller to date. Since the beginning of my ‘corporate’ career, I always had to do a lot of travelling. Over the years I had searched for the perfect travel bag with never much luck. I wanted to create a bag that was luxurious, practical yet affordable, with high functionality.
3 How do you source and curate your materials?
I go to local makers and suppliers where possible. It’s important to me that Hills & West stays Australian Made and supports local makers and businesses. There is an element of quality care and craftsmanship that cannot be beaten. I love to be hands-on in all steps of the making process and am often working alongside local leather and fabric suppliers where I typically spend hours looking at different hides and materials. The Weekender from the Traveller Collection has gorgeous linen lining that I tried so many different thicknesses and blends before I was happy.
4 How would you describe the Hills & West aesthetic?
Hills & West aspires to declutter and simplify, stylishly. The collections are catered to the busy lifestyles of the modern man and woman and are available at an accessible price point for quality handmade pieces. The Hills & West aesthetic is minimal, modernist-classic and suitable for any occasion.
5 How does Hills & West differ from other accessories on the market?
When starting Hills & West one of the important guiding factors was to create a product that was handmade locally and supported other artisans and makers. I wanted to make unique pieces that were considered in both function, form and of high quality. I also wanted to keep the line of communication as open and face-to-face as possible, so I could convey my ideas and inspirations proficiently. I wanted to work alongside local artisans, so I could intertwine my learnings from Italy in an innovating way.
6 Who did you have in mind when designing your latest collection?
The latest capsule collection is the Chevron Collection. It launched with 3 styles; Darcy Top Handle Tote, Parker Crossbody and Baxter Wristlet Clutch. Modernist architecture was a key inspiring element on some of my recent travels. I wanted to achieve better design through simplicity of form, space, materiality, detail and colour. I wanted to create a product that let its user admire its form without overstimulation so that they may occupy a space of internal serenity. The Chevron collection comes in classic ink black, midnight navy and has functional gold features. This cohesiveness allows the products to look fantastic on their own or be collected as a set. It was designed with the intent to be something totally different to what is currently on the market with the super stylish modern woman in mind. We have just added the little Lennie, a belt bag that is the ultimate hands-free.
7 How does Hills & West give back to the world?
Each year Hills & West donates 10% of its profits towards helping children around the world get access to education. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to follow my dreams and am deeply saddened that for many, this is considered a luxury. We make frequent contributions to the Rainbow Children’s Home in Nepal. I also work with Kiwanis International where I donate my time and make donations to strengthen communities and serve children. I also donate my products to other charities such as the Starlight Foundation for their silent auctions as an additional way to fundraise for important causes.
8 How can we create a bespoke piece with Hills & West?
This is such an exciting new part of my offering. Once again it was through listening to one of my first fabulous customers who asked what was next for Hills & West and wanted a new colourway on one of the bags. Many people have asked about new colourways, so I brainstormed with my manufactures about what could be done and the process and came up with a way to work creatively with people who want to personalise in the most detailed way. Typically this process begins with a phone consultation where we chat through your ideas and we can create a customised piece for you.
9 Where do you see your brand in five years?
I have so many ideas and dreams it’s just a matter of money and time. I definitely see lots of collaborations with other creatives. I am currently working with other gorgeous designers on a collaboration of some very wild designs for the practical yet colourful lady. I have also connected with six other strong Australian female founders who complement each other with the same ethos and vision. We are coming together to bring you the ultimate ensemble shopping destination. I would like to build on this and roll it out all over the world. I have already started a Hills and West HOME collection that will be evolving in the next year and will start to develop staples and more accessories that are all in line with the Hills & West ethos to add practical, luxurious finishing touches to your home. Ultimately, I would also like to take Hills & West development to other communities around the world where crafting my bags will help support communities that are not as well off as we are. From the beginning our mission has been simple – create exceptional pieces, while doing what I love and making people happy along the way.
Shop at hillsandwest.com