Emma Cornes - stylish tweed handbags from Kings Marsh

Emma Cornes and a selection of her Handbags

Emma Cornes and a selection of her Handbags - Credit: Archant

Emma Cornes has been mentored by Barbour’s vice chairman, Helen Barbour, and her intrinsically British handbags are loved by people all over the world. We meet the Kings Marsh bagmaker to find out more.

Emma Cornes Kirsty Bag Spring Summer 15 collection

Emma Cornes Kirsty Bag Spring Summer 15 collection - Credit: Archant

Gazing out onto the stunning view from Emma Cornes studio at her home in Kings Marsh, it’s not difficult to see where she gets her inspiration from. The 31-year-old designer, who was born in Tweed Valley on the Scottish borders, works from her home-based studio in rural Cheshire which she shares with her husband and business partner, Pete and Dug, their playful Glen of Imaal Terrier.

‘I suppose I set out to make the bag I could never find – simple and classic,’ said Emma, who created her own after her first and only handbag became tragically threadbare. ‘I didn’t want any bling and that’s harder to find than you might think!’

Emma Cornes Fairweather Messenger Bag - Spring Summer 15 collection

Emma Cornes Fairweather Messenger Bag - Spring Summer 15 collection - Credit: Archant

The designer, whose diverse career prior to handbags included market research, kayak guiding and environmental consultancy, purchased her first sewing machine in 2012. Mortally embarrassed by her first few attempts, she soon got to grips with it and her passion for bag making became greater and greater.

‘Soon enough it was all I wanted to do,’ said Emma, who officially launched the brand in 2013. ‘In my head I knew I what I wanted to create. I love landscapes and colours so I incorporated all of these into my dream bag.’

‘I gave one to a friend and tried a few markets but then it just took off!’ This first design, the Kirsty, remains her most popular bag. Emma now makes five designs using seven different cloths, all classically simple.

A former kayaking world championship silver medallist, the designer loves the outdoors and this is the main inspiration behind her collection. A blend of the traditional beautiful tweeds from the Scottish valley she grew up in and a contemporary edge, Emma’s handbags have an intrinsically British feel.

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‘Tweeds traditionally draw on different colours as each twill is associated to a landscape,’ said Emma, who personally sources all her cloths, taking inspiration from the places that matter most to her and the stories behind them. ‘I have a degree in geography from Durham University so maps and landscapes is something I have always been attracted to.’

Emma then creates her original designs from her studio using hand-finished full-grain leather. There are no frills and gimmicks; her collection lets the fabric do the talking.

‘I used to make all of the handbags myself. As much fun as it was, it became time consuming as popularity increased,’ said Emma, who has sold hundreds of bags to people across the world, developing an ever-growing base of loyal fans both in the UK and overseas. Due to the demand, she now works in partnership with a factory in the Midlands to produce the bags. However, the cutting and leather work for all bags continues at her studio and the designer still makes a handful of products herself.

‘You don’t lose the great quality and it’s like magic when they all arrive here finished,’ said Emma. ‘It’s crazy how many bags we ship overseas, it’s quite exciting. I think people like the nostalgic idea of Britain and are buying a little bit of it as well as story the cloth is based around.’

Emma’s designs have not only proved popular with handbag loving ladies, but they are also making waves in the business world. The designer was awarded Cheshire’s Young Business Person of the Year at the 2014 Cheshire Business Awards and she also won in the fashion category at the Country Homes & Interiors My Country Business Awards 2014. This prize included mentoring from Helen Barbour, vice chairman of coveted traditional brand, Barbour.

‘We were invited to the Barbour headquarters in South Shields and given a grand tour,’ said Emma. ‘It was like a very big version of my studio!’

‘It was interesting to speak to Helen and get her perspective. We sat and chatted for a few hours and she gave me some ideas. It’s reassuring to know I am on the right path, the same one she was.’

Emma Cornes’ Spring/Summer 2015 collection will be inspired by Llanddwyn Island, avaliable from mid-March. For more information visit: www.emmacornes.co.uk

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