INTRODUCING COMMON PEOPLE’S NEW COLLECTION, BRAKES OFF
Jodie Calder, founder of Common People, talks us through her new lot of leather goods.
Tell us how Common People came about. Starting a bag brand seems like a daunting task.
Haha it is. Although I don’t think you really find out just how daunting until you’re fairly deep in it. At the beginning, it’s exciting because it’s all conceptual and there’s little expectation or pressures from the world around you to deliver because no one knows who you are. There’s much more room for failings and learnings.
I was obsessed with bags and accessories from a very young age so, I guess, that, and being born creative and curious, has naturally led me down this path. I began designing products and the concept of the brand while I was working in London. It really ignited a fire in my belly and, once I felt that I just couldn’t stop, I was obsessed.
From there, I just needed to figure out how to make it work in a practical and commercial sense. The learning curve has been (and continues to be) exponential.
With the luxury brands holding much control of the leather goods market, where do you see Common People sitting?
I think we’re still at the stage of seeing where it fits in organically — you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I do feel like there’s some real opportunity for younger, independent brands to shine now and compete with larger brands.
Consumers are getting bored with run-of-the-mill and are evaluating their purchase decisions more closely, so brands are really having to push creative boundaries to stay ahead and I find this really exciting and inspiring.
Describe the Common People customer.
Fashion trendsetters, confident, urban — of no specific age, sex, gender. Just real humans who appreciate fashion, art and creativity. They seek and follow brands that align with their values with an excitement and curiosity of what they’ll bring next.
Where do you find inspiration to develop a point of difference with your products?
I’m drawn to anything that is different or pushes creative boundaries so, as cliché as it sounds, it could be anything that inspires me. My brain never switches off, I could be walking down the street and just see something random or out of context and the creative juices start flowing.
Design-wise, I don’t really seek to develop a point of difference in order to blatantly differ from any competitors, I think (hope) that, aesthetically, the point of difference comes through naturally with an independent take on whatever is inspiring me at the time. Aside from design, it’s important to me that our point of difference also comes through in the way we treat our customers and really create a connection that adds value to them, so we’re a brand they feel part of — not just a bag on their arm.
This year has been a tough one for everyone. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and what are your biggest personal learnings?
Coming to terms with the sudden loss of my father on top of a global pandemic has definitely amplified any challenges that would otherwise be normal challenges to face for a young brand. It forced me to put things in perspective and only concentrate on the things that really matter.
I guess it’s really been a matter of re-evaluating everything and overcoming any fears or anxieties by just trusting I’m heading in the right direction and being honest with myself. I’ve really learnt to trust my gut — if it feels right then go for it and back yourself, if it doesn’t, there’s probably a reason (even if you don’t know what that is yet), so learning to be patient rather than making hasty decisions I feel I have to make because of internal or external pressures has been key.
Tell me about the brand name — is there a Jarvis Cocker reference?
Haha in a word, no. There’s no dramatic back story; it was a name that my mum and I came across throughout our travels. I guess it resonated with me coming from a small town and always having a passion for people to be who they wanted to be — regardless of age, sex, gender, wealth or lack thereof. At the end of the day, we all have the common denominator of being human.
It really squeals my wheels to see people of all walks of life, especially the underdogs, going against the grain, persevering and overcoming life’s challenges, pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms in a continuous effort to better themselves and create a life really worth living — these to me, are Common People.
See the interview on Index Magazine: