LUXTRA is a vegan luxury brand based in London that makes bags and fashion accessories from innovative sustainable materials such as pineapple and apple leather …
Founded in 2018, they aim to promote responsible production & consumption by crafting beautiful and sustainable products we can use in our day-to-day life.
This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica Kruger, the founder of LUXTRA, to find out more about her inspiration to start her company and the challenges of running a sustainable fashion brand.
What inspired you to start LUXTRA?
I became a vegan in 2012 and was living in Switzerland at the time. I decided to move to London to start a vegetarian restaurant called Ethos. I started Ethos because I wanted to change peoples’ minds (of course in a nice way and without preaching) about eating less meat. Unfortunately, after a few years, my business partner and I no longer shared the same vision, so I chose to move on. Then I was thinking: “ok … what next?!”
The fashion industry has been something I’ve been interested in since I was a child and has always been a big part of my life. I didn’t have any fashion training. But I thought it can’t be too hard… I mean it’s not rocket science. Also at the time, there was only Stella McCartney who was making vegan bags so I wanted to provide people with another option.
What is your favourite product from your range and why?
I have two favourites at the moment. One is the Nina mini handbag. I really like that because it’s cute and small but actually fits a lot in. My next favourite bag is the Zaha which is a belt bag/ shoulder bag. I don’t wear it as a belt bag, I just use it as a shoulder bag because I think it’s very elegant.
You use a lot of innovative materials such as pineapple and apple leather that many people have never seen or even heard of before. How have your customers responded to them?
Most of them are of the mindset that they are really cool and are really excited about them. I often think about customers as “light greens” and “dark greens”. So people who are “light greens” are already into sustainability, but it’s not their biggest priority in life. “Dark green” customers (I think of myself as a dark green) are a bit more … radical, shall we say. They go out of their way to choose the eco-choice – it’s a big part of their life.
Farrell Vegan Backpack – Made from AppleSkin, an eco-leather alternative made from apples
What is the process of making a bag and how long does it usually take?
So I’ll have some sort of inspiration first. Right now I’m working on a bucket bag because there is no bucket bag in my collection. So it’s something that is missing and something new that I would like to add to my collection. I’ll then iterate by designing a bucket bag that is LUXTRA’s version.
The next stage would be doing technical drawings or finding a product in the market that is more or less what I want and then taking measurements from that. Then those go to my manufacturers in Italy. We liaise back and forward. They then create the first sample for me and ship it back to London. I try it out to see what I like and don’t like. Sometimes I give it to friends and ask their opinions. Then I go back to my manufacturers with changes, that can happen around two more times. I then place a production order which involves getting all the materials, hardware, stitching colour and paint. So if I’m being efficient, from design to the product going live on our website, it takes at least 3 to 4 months.
What are the challenges of running a sustainable fashion brand?
One of the challenges is money. I’m self-funded so everything that I earn in other work that I do on the side goes into my business more or less.
Also, there are some compromises that you have to make. No material out there is perfect. In a lot of materials that I use there is still a degree of Polyurethane which is “plastic”. So then I think should I use hemp, which is like a heavy linen? But people don’t use linen bags in London in winter, do they…? It’s all about deciding what you are going to compromise on.
What advice would you give to women who want to start their own fashion business? What is the first step you would advise them to take?
There is so much fear and there are so many people that are going to give their opinions. I’m still encountering that, even though I’ve been doing my own business for almost 10 years now. My first advice is to start. Make the first step if you’re thinking about venturing into business for yourself.
My next piece of advice is, as much as you can, try not to compare yourself with others because it is so painful. People might look at me and think I’ve got my own brand, but I look at other people and think they have a stable job and income. Also if I look at other brands that are doing better than me who started at the same time as me, I might find that hard. So try not to be your worst enemy.
What’s your go-to summer weekend outfit and accessory and why?
I have some strappy swishy summery dresses that you don’t normally get to wear in this country! Strappy flat sandals and depending on the colour of my dress I would either take my Nina or Zaha bag. And whenever I’m in the sun I try to have a hat on!