What makes a collection feel right for the times? Form and function, certainly, but then there’s sustainability and innovation to factor in, too. With that in mind, OROTON introduces an exciting new collection made from hemp and recycled bottles – its antibacterial technology is another major talking point. The result is a beautiful and highly-durable line of bags that are future-forward.
“In the beginning, we went through a process of discovery,” says Head Accessories Designer, Pia Wessels, of OROTON’s latest launch, a game-changing six piece capsule collection made from hemp plants and recycled bottles. The line-up was two years in the making. “Our starting point was all about understanding the nature of the fabrics and how we could best use them in a way that felt modern and in keeping with our heritage. We had to be able to apply artisanal techniques to the most hi-tech materials.”
The project was a timely collaboration with HEMP BLACK, a Philadelphia-based biotech firm at the forefront of fabric innovation. Its antibacterial technology – fibres fused in layers to produce bacterial resistance – proved a silver lining of sorts moving into 2021. Then there’s the collection’s undeniable refinement: the bags have their own sleek look and feel. Pebbled effects were stamped on to vegan ‘leathers’ to replicate the touch of cowhide, bands were printed on classic totes to mirror belts, and straps were added to hold yoga mats, a nod to the collection’s wellbeing theme.
Sophie Holt, OROTON’s Creative Director, says: “Our philosophy, from a design point of view, is always to consider how we can create something timeless, a piece that women will love and keep forever. Working with HEMP BLACK allowed us to push boundaries in our own design process and mix OROTON’s aesthetic with unique, cutting-edge technology. It’s an exciting milestone.”
And certainly, a forward-thinking one. Midway through production, the pandemic hit. Wessels says, “We had been meeting as an online hub before the crisis began, between our offices in Australia and the US, and so when the world turned upside down we were able to continue working that way, we kept the processes moving along and that was a huge positive – of course, it felt all the more relevant that we had been exploring antibacterial fabrics.” (During the crisis, HEMP BLACK shifted from making fabrics to PPE, producing tens of thousands of face masks, including those for OROTON).
Mark Sunderland, HEMP BLACK’s Chief Innovation Officer who also serves as Vice President of Innovation at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says: “What we are able to do with hemp is so exciting, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I am so proud of what HEMP BLACK created with OROTON as one collective group. I think a lot of the time when people set out to innovate, they arrive at something overt for the sake of making a statement. But there is such subtlety and elegance to this collaboration. Ultimately, we wanted to make a difference, to produce a collection in a considered and thoughtful way.”
So how then does the creative team hope shoppers will embrace the collection? “Consciously! This is such an exciting development,” Wessels says. “We always wear-test every piece to explore functionality, and it was wonderful to get a sense of how versatile these bags are.” She credits Holt with pressing upon the team the importance of inventiveness. “Sophie has such a clear vision on fashion, art, style – and yet at the same time she has always emphasised function, which is something I’m particularly passionate about. I love exploring that tension between how the best designs can work in real life. Add to that this new stage in our sustainable journey, and I am so excited to see where it takes us.”