DT08 – Rachael Sleight

For our eighth Design & Technology lecture we had a talk from Rachael Sleight. In addition to her work as a tutor for the GSA, Rachael has worked as a designer for brands such as Conran, Habitat and MADE.com. However more recently she has started her own endeavour; Burnbank Leather, a bespoke, hand-made leather bag company based in Glasgow.

I found this a really inspiring talk from Rachael. It’s very clear to see in her portfolio that she loves using different materials to create clean, elegant and timeless designs. It’s also great to see that she has still been able to apply her principles and beliefs freely whilst working for larger corporations such as Habitat and Conran, in addition to smaller freelance projects. I think that it is really important, as designers, that we formulate our own principles which we follow to create our own identity as we design. This is something that Rachael has clearly demonstrated which I really admire and appreciate.

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Although it was great to hear insights about Rachael’s past work and designs, what really interested me was her current brain-child; Burnbank Leather. This is a bespoke leather bag company run exclusively by Rachael where she makes hand-made leather bags for her clients. As she is still very much in the development stages of the brand, her work mainly consists of prototyping and streamlining the labour intensive hand-made manufacturing process.

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Firstly, I love the bags, you can really tell that Rachael will settle for nothing shy of perfection when making these products, which results in perfectly crafted, quality products that should last a very long time. Personally, I often find some leather products a little visually confusing and cluttered as you get your head around the maze of join lines, creases and the stitching of different panels. This often results in leather goods looking ‘old fashioned’ and dated. What I really like about Burnbank is the amalgamation of an ‘old school’ traditional hand-stitched process, combined with a modern, reductive & timeless design. This thoughtful design results in really clean and elegant products which I could easily see looking great in many years time and that certainly don’t look ‘old fashioned’!

Burnbank also represents a change away from cheap, ‘disposable fashion’ which is similar to a few other products that I have previously shouted about in this blog, such as my Dualit toaster and Trakke bag to name a few. Although these products may initially seem like a large amount of money, as they outlast a cheaper and poorer quality alternative they become a sensible, better quality and more financially viable option.

To summarise, there is definitely something that I can take away from this talk and Rachael work in particular for my personal D&T assignment topic; A Product for Life. Burnbank definitely asserts its place within this category.

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