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Interview: Ania Mroz-Pacula, FERRON

London-based designer Ania Mroz-Pacula is on a mission to redefine vegan luxury.

Launched in 2019 FERRON is the brainchild of UK-based designer Ania Mroz-Pacula. Noticing a gap in the vegan luxe accessories space, Ania set about creating cruelty-free alternative leather handbags that were affordable, and married simple and elegant design with luxury.

Ferron bags challenge the notion that vegan bags are inferior to leather bags. Launching with a classic box shaped bag in three colours with red faux leather interior, the FERRON bag is Louboutin’s luxurious vegan counterpart. They’re super versality and functional too. Dress it up, dress it down. Wear it on your shoulder, or carry it by its handle. It’s several bags in one which means you don’t need to switch bags from day to evening, and it comes equipped with lots of handy pockets for credit cards, phone and keys. But, the real beauty of these butter-soft bags is that they aren’t made from animal derived materials, and no living being had to suffer. Ferron bags are better for animals—and animal lovers—and the planet.

Ania’s mission is not only to provide an elegant, ethical handbag, an affordable luxury item but also to be a voice for the voiceless. She’s an animal rights activist and through FERRON she supports the work of SWT (Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) a non-profit conservation and preservation organisation which operates an elephant rescue and rehabilitation programme. Ania loves these gentle giants so much that they have become FERRON’s emblem, embossed on every bag tag. A percentage of profits from each FERRON bag sale is donated to SWT, so you can do good while also looking good.

Where are you based, and what were you doing before you founded FERRON?

FERRON’S headquarters are based in the UK. But I have my extended team based in Guangzhou, China, and we ship our beautiful handbags globally.

I spent several years working in HR for big IT companies. I did enjoy it but I wasn’t able to let my creativity breathe properly whilst working in corporate job. I left my 9-5 on the beginning of 2019 to fully focus on the brand.

What inspired you to create FERRON, and what’s the mission behind it?

I love animals, and I don’t agree with having them used for our own advantage, whether it’s fashion, cosmetics, food or entertainment. I wanted to join the team of change makers and push the boundaries of the fashion industry, to make vegan luxury pieces more affordable and accessible for customers, to prove that vegan fashion is indeed fashionable. I believe that my product adds value to this world, is aligned with my values and comes with a strong mission.

FERRON is my outlet that allows me to be creative, to talk about things that are important to me, like my love for animals, and contribute to reducing the gap between vegan fashion lovers and luxury items, and helping others.

You set about creating a handbag that marries luxury and quality but using no leather or animal products. Can you tell me about your choice of materials, and the manufacturing process?

FERRON handbags are structured and perfectly imitate the soft feel of pebbled leather, and are absolutely animal cruelty- free and ethically made. At this stage we use bio-based Polyurethane (PU) and Microfiber materials that provide the luxury feel of real leather without harming a single animal. PU leather has less than half of the environmental impact than leather derived from animals. In terms of durability, PU is waterproof, can be dry-cleaned, is soft and supple and much lighter than real leather, and does not crack or fade under sunlight.

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about the environmental impact of PU versus ‘natural’ leather. That leather is more natural and therefore better for the environment than PU. Can you demystify this for us?

FERRON stands for beautiful and high-quality handbags that are cruelty-free and sustainably made by artisans that are unbelievable at their craft. The handbags come to life thanks to a small, family-owned manufacturer based in Guangzhou, China. They purely focus on craftsmanship and I trust them 100%. We’re open to look into transitioning to recycled material if it is beautiful and would allow my team to make nice products out of. As soon as natural leather alternatives don’t require us to compromise on quality and longevity, we will probably be using it.

What seems to be quite confusing to all fashion lovers and customers at this stage is that those materials are still being developed, tested and piloted and not available to every brand to purchase. One of the latest vegan leather trends, Piñatex, though plant-based and pretty sustainable in itself, as an end product it has petroleum-based coating added, hence it’s actually not biodegradable. And it’s not as easy to work with. Besides, it is not as strong and I don’t quite like the look of it. It’s just not a material for my brand. Similarly, an apple leather, despite the lovely name, still has 50% PU in it.

What have been some of the greatest challenges to making great quality vegan bags?

The biggest challenge is actually sourcing those truly sustainable fabrics that wear well and are as good as the “real thing”. Sadly, the vegan material that looks and feels most like cow skin happens to be toxic PVC which I don’t condone and won’t ever be using. I’m very transparent in what I do and encourage potential customers to contact me and ask whatever questions they might have in relation to the bags making. I also encourage them to look up the brand’s policy before making any purchase, and if such is a bit shady to contact the company’s customer care. There are companies that hold themselves out as "sustainable" yet continue to use PVC. Fact.

The truth is though–and we all need to remember this–is that there is no perfect material. Each one leaves a carbon footprint and damage on the planet and I think this should be something that the customer is aware of. For me, the main reason for creating vegan bags is to end the pain and suffering of living creatures.

Do sustainable and ethical practices and materials also play a role in your design and production?

There’s a lot of greenwashing going on at present, which is really sad. The term “sustainability” has never been as abused as it has in the past couple of years. To me, an ethical component to the definition of sustainability is key, and it’s ethical reasons why I’ve opted in for a vegan and animal cruelty free brand. I’m passionate about animal cruelty-free lifestyle and the idea of making beautiful high quality pieces that prove that the leather alternatives are not only better for the environment but also look fabulous.

As mentioned before, we use PU leather which, I understand, provokes some reservations. Nonetheless, as I mentioned, it has less than half of the environmental impact than leather derived from animals and you have a luxurious product with no single animal being harmed. .PU imitates real leather amazingly. I had some comments from leather fashion professionals not noticing the difference from the real leather bag. It’s a bit harder to work with than an animal leather material, but the team of my craftsmen are highly skilled and can work magic.

I’m very excited to see that consumers are changing the face of the industry by demanding that designers and retailers ditch animal-derived materials for cruelty-free alternatives that look great without causing suffering.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received when you started your company?

When I ventured to the unknown of running my own business, I suddenly had countless people telling me what I should or should not be doing. But during my journey as an entrepreneur I’ve met numbers of people that are so passionate, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. It’s those people who have given me wings, who have supported me and are always happy to listen and help out. I have managed to build a small yet mighty support network and I’m proud to be a part of the game changers gang.

A constructive piece of advice that has stuck with me was to listen to your gut and don’t expect to make any profit in the first year of running FERRON. Both duly noted, aiming to beat the second prediction. My advice to new business owners is don’t think what’s the worst that can happen, think about what’s the best that is to happen to you. Think the knowledge you’ll gain, think of the friendships and connections you’ll make, think of the wealth and abundance that you can utilise to make this world a better place. Believe in yourself, no one else will!

A percentage of profits from each bag goes to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Can you talk about the significance of this organization?

Yes, our elephant logo is not only an expression of our love for animals but also our support for Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and their conservation efforts in Kenya (for every bag sold we donate £10 to SWT). They do an amazing job operating the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. They are best known for their work to protect elephants, but they do so much more than this.

They specialise in the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife, run anti-poaching campaigns, safeguard the natural environment, spread awareness within the local community and provide veterinary assistance to all animals in need. They are highly skilled and trained individuals who love and care for those beautiful herbivores and make sure to release them back into the wilderness once they're ready.

So far, you’ve launched with one design– a versatile cross body bag that is also a carry bag. Are there plans to release other designs too?

At this present time we only have one design, available in three colours. The bag is very unique, and at the same time versatile and timeless. And as much as I am very proud of the bags, my intention is to move forward introducing more and equally unique designs. There are some ideas in my head, however, I’m unable to confirm ETA for a new arrival.

As a small business there are things that I need to consider in order to make another move and introduce new products. For now, I’m focusing on spreading awareness about FERRON, getting the name out ther” and winning the trust amongst conscious fashionistas. The goal is to turn FERRON into mainstream brand.

What else do you have planned for FERRON?

Oh boy, the plans for FERRON that I have in my head (laughs!) Firstly, as I mentioned before, I’d like to gain customers and potential customers’ trust. My product is solid and speaks luxury for itself, but I need to ensure this quality is discovered and appreciated by handbags’ lovers. This is key. Next stop would be the introduction of new designs to really offer a scaled-up model where I can sell wholesale and distribute much larger quantities. I’d love to open my own boutique in London, and then move to other cities in the world.

I really want my brand to be proof that you really can have a sustainable and ethical brand that is luxurious and doesn’t break anyone’s budget.


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