Interview with Catherine Ellis from Hill & Ellis
What led you to create Hill & Ellis?
I started Hill & Ellis as I felt there was a gap in the market for cycle bags that work perfectly on the bike but that still had style. I was cycling regularly to work at ITV studios and the only options on the market were really ugly, boringly practical bags in black pvc, that weren’t designed to carry when off the bike. I remember being in a lift with Ant and Dec as I just got in, with said bag, and jokes were made about pretty sad looking pannier bag. I never liked it but it was all I could get at the time and I thought there has to be a better way. So I designed a few prototypes, and after being stopped at lights by fellow cyclists asking where my bag was from I knew there was a market for the product.
What is your biggest inspiration?
Cycling. I know its corny but genuinely cycling is my biggest inspiration for the designs. Cycling is genuinely a gift that I would love to pass on, cycling to work for nearly 20 years (and uni for 3) has made my commute a joy – even in the wet days there is something enjoyable about it. You get to see the seasons change, it shakes off any stresses from the day, you get some space to think away from any digital distractions and I have come up with my best ideas on the bike. I have always been climate conscious and cycling could be a real driver in reversing the problem of air pollution and reduce our carbon output. It is estimated that during the first 2 months of lockdown, the lack of car, bus and plane travel meant air pollution dropped by 40%! Cycling can’t get us there alone but it’s a great start. Cycling is the greenest way to travel - aside from walking – but with the benefit of getting you to your destination so much faster. And you get to pretend you are 6 years old again.
All your products are made in England. Can you tell us more about the production?
All our satchel bike bags, saddlebags and some of our Brompton compatible bags are all handmade in England – in fact they are handmade in London. The materials are sourced as locally as possible to the workshop – with leather coming from Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, the hooks are patented, and made in Germany, and the metal buckles are plated in Northampton. The production is still very traditional with each piece of leather being cut individually on a stamping machine, the pieces are then hand glued, hand riveted, stitched and then foil stamped with our logo. I think the quality of their workmanship shines through.
Where can we find your products?
If you want to see them in the flesh we have lots of lovely stockists across London – such as A&S cycles & Cycle Spirit, in Hackney, Fully Charged in London Bridge, Velorution in Great Portland Street, and Phoenix Cycles near Battersea.
Any new items coming out later this year?
We are working on new collection of small saddle bags made in beautiful racing green leather and a new range of cycle bags in sustainable fabrics with a circular lifestyle – which we are really excited about. All will be revealed soon.
What's your favourite bag to cycle with?
At the moment, my favourite is the copper and charcoal canvas print bag
. It fits everything I need, clips on easily and I love the print. (I have a slight obsession with copper!) But I still love the yellow satchel
. It was the first of the satchel designs and I was debating the yellow and grey combination for hours (which wasn’t a combination seen anywhere then) but I knew it worked so I went with it. I still love the colour combination and the boldness of the yellow.
Any tips to anyone scared of cycling in London?
Pick your route. It might be quicker to go on the big roads but getting off the beaten track will make your journey much more pleasurable. I would recommend finding routes on backstreets where there are often designated cycle routes - it might be slightly longer but it will be quieter with less traffic and it will transform your commute. There are so many resources of cycle maps available – the first place to look is Sustrans and local council websites. So download some and look at alternative routes – and then test them out until you find a route you love. The route around Regents Park for example is often much quieter than the roads nearby, its really wide so you have lots of space - and you get to go past the giraffes every day!
Any bike ride recommendation?
My favourite route is around Regents Park, cycle clubs often use it for training as it is quieter, and then through Fitzrovia and down to the Southbank. Any route that takes you past giraffes and over the bridges in London wins my vote. Blackfriars Bridge is lovely – you get a view down both sides of the Thames and it is a quieter bridge than most of them – with designated cycle lanes to help you feel safer. Most of all I love getting lost on the bike and weaving through back streets – learning how the city connects together and stumbling across Blue Plaque signs of famous inhabitants across the city.
I would also recommend the Dunwich Dynamo – an unofficial bike ride in July, which, leaves from the Pub on the Park in London Fields to Dunwich in Suffolk – overnight! You start with half a pint at the pub and then slowly everyone sets off into the night. It is glorious, you just follow this line of twinkly lights through the darkness – but as it takes about 7-9 hours, it is exhausting.
Tell us something most people don't know about you?
I studied sculpture at St Martins College – just like the pulp song. It came out when I was there so it became a bit of an anthem, and I still love that song today as much as I did then.
One last word to our TN customers?
If you are thinking about cycling this winter to avoid the crowds on public transport, just do it. I promise you will love it, and you won’t go back. You are never bored on a bike.
Is cycling becoming a way of life - a mode of transport as well as fun? We've teamed up with Hill & Ellis, purveyors of the ultimate cycle pannier to help keep your things safe along the journey. We have a reciprocal offer of £20 off. If you have bought Men's or Women's Reflective Footwear from us, then you're entitled to £20 off your next purchase from Hill & Ellis. Bought a bag? Then you've earned £20 off your next purchase of any Cycle Style. Together we'll provide you with a beautiful ride.
Just Contact Us showing your proof of purchase and we'll send you the discount code.*Valid until the end of 2020 on cycle products only with a minimum £100 spend.