A day in the life: Cotswold accessories designer Karen Buswell

PUBLISHED: 17:39 30 July 2015 | UPDATED: 17:39 30 July 2015

Karen Buswell with some of her designs.

Karen Buswell with some of her designs.


We spoke to former Mulberry designer Karen Buswell about the inspiration and creation of her own luxury handbag collection

Where are you based?

I have a lovely light studio in the Cotswolds. I like to keep things quite tidy and neat to ensure that all the materials are kept in pristine condition before I start to use them.

Can you describe your average morning?

An average morning would be to take my daughter to school before going to the studio and either starting a new design or carrying on with one already started generally with some music playing and a large mug of coffee!

What do you wear for work?

I put on an apron if I am doing anything messy. I find colour invigorating so depending on the weather for the day it will often be colourful cashmere jumper or linen shirt and jeans.

What is the best part of your job?

I love being a designer but also having a skill and a craft which allows me to realise the ideas that I have in my head. I also love the process of liaising with a customer to design their ideal bag.

You have been a designer for over 25 years, including working for Mulberry and Highgrove, what make you decide to start your own business?

Having started my own design business I started to look at the world around us and became a bit disillusioned with our ‘buy things cheap/throw away’ society. I decided to create things that were properly made, but with a modern and unusual twist. I decided I wanted to concentrate on making one-off, quality hand-stitched handbags each of which would be unique. I felt that there was a growing interest from discerning customers who wanted to purchase something different and who liked to stand out from the crowd.

Can you describe your design process?

I make many 3D sketches to get the proportion just right and try various alternatives before I go with the preferred option. I also love to have different leathers and suede in my studio to give me ideas. I will then make patterns and start to cut the various sections.

What inspires you?

Developing and producing my own designs, which are different to those already available on the market. I love to walk around antiques markets to see if there are unusual elements that I can incorporate into my designs.

Are your products all made and designed in the UK?

All my bags are designed and fully hand made by me. The handbags are completely hand-stitched. This is a very traditional craft but hand stitching actually produces a stronger product than machine stitching because two threads are used to create each stitch. I also use a linen thread, which is incredibly strong and natural. As each piece is fully hand made they are time consuming and can sometimes take up to a week to produce depending on the size. What is paramount to me is quality.

What is your favourite piece in your collection?

It is hard to say which is my favourite piece as it is usually the last one I have created! I get so excited when I have a new idea that I can’t wait to realise the piece that I can see within my head. I’m collaborating with a lady in London who dyes and paints amazing effects onto leather so I’m excited about using some of her work in the coming months.

Where do you see Karen Buswell Designs in the future?

I would just like people to enjoy using the handbags that I produce and hopefully appreciate the time and the quality that go into each and every one.

To discover the Karen Buswell Designs collection head over to the Great British Life shop.

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