UK based vegan fashion brand Frida Rome found recent fame in the UK series Dragons’ Den (known as Shark Tank in the US) with founders Natalie Deana and Rebecca Joy carving out a new niche, creating luxury handbags for “bad girls who do good things”.
A handbag that is as close to premium cut-edge leather as possible without the cruelty or the environmental impact
Frida Rome’s debut luxury accessory is a crossbody handbag called The WEEK/END, which contains an erotic story about a weekend romance. The ladies behind the brand have launched a billboard campaign; a “risqué nod to the (often controversial) 90’s high fashion aesthetics, combined with a significant underlying message that highlights our dedication to cruelty-free fashion. We believe in luxury without compromise; the pillar upon which the house of FRIDA ROME stands.”
With such a fun concept, combining sustainable with sexy, classy with naughty – we absolutely had to get to know Deana and Joy and find out a little more.
How was Frida Rome born?
We were in Marrakech, walking around le Jardin Majorelle (once home to Yves St Laurent), wondering why, at the time, there were no luxury vegan bags and accessories with an edge. Brands we had come across were either using PVC, or typical PU ‘pleather’, and most were sticking with ‘safe’ designs that felt more like a bag you’d purchase for Mother’s Day, than the styles of more renowned luxury brands that spoke to us.
The path to building the brand was unclear at the beginning. The desire was there but when the idea was born, Natalie lived in Australia and Rebecca in the UK. The brand was going to have to be imagined over Skype calls (Skype being the preferred video call platform pre-covid, before Zoom became bigger than the Beatles).
It was clear, we would be the go-to for BAD GIRLS WHO DO GOOD THINGS
We wanted to build a conscious luxury vegan brand inspired by and designed for women with a thirst for life. And it was clear, we would be the go-to for BAD GIRLS WHO DO GOOD THINGS; creating bold statement pieces that perfectly embody a modern woman’s sophisticated yet contradictory nature.
Not all vegans are saintly in every aspect of their lives, we certainly are not. Our contribution to the vegan movement would be to address the gap in the market that we both encountered when we became vegan; a lack of brands with attitude. We wanted high-quality luxury pieces with a masculine and bold ‘edge’ – and we knew that there would be others out there who would be looking for the same.
We wanted high-quality luxury pieces with a masculine and bold ‘edge’
We wanted to offer customers who may be vegan or sustainability-conscious the opportunity to purchase a handbag that is as close to premium cut-edge leather as possible without the cruelty or the environmental impact.
Who is the target market for the brand?
Rebels with a cause. Freedom-loving, no-nonsense women. The new breed of future-focused consumers who want luxury without compromising their ethics.
Has it always been a core value to be a vegan brand?
Absolutely. We are both vegan so this was always non-negotiable. Frida Rome was designed to be a business that contributes its profits back into the protection of animals.
What are your biggest selling products?
Our WEEK/END crossbody has always been our biggest selling product because there is nothing the bag cannot do. It is designed to work from day to night and move with you from one event to another and across borders if need be (due to its flat-packing capability).
Casual brunches, music gigs, elegant dinners, house parties, whether home or away; it works for any weekend occasion (hence the name). For the sustainability-focused, the bag offers a lower environmental impact as it is constructed from Cactus leather and an eco-suede.
For the vegans: the bag is animal product free and Peta certified. Customers can also be comforted that they are investing in a company that seeks to actively improve the lives of animals both through profit and the platform that the brand gives us.
For the rebels: we have a secret signature detail; each bag offers a great conversation starter – an erotic story chapter inspired by the name and purpose of the handbag, providing a little reminder of the rebel side of the woman who wears it.
For the nomads: the bag is entirely de-constructable. It flat-packs into its bespoke dust bag, allowing for easy transportation in your carry-on case (no need to squish it in).
For the fashionistas: the bag can be worn three ways; clutch, crossbody and over-the-shoulder. Dress it up or dress it down. As well as the ability to switch up the look with interchangeable panels, completely transforming the style of the bag to suit every look.
And if you’re all of the above (as we are), you may just have found your perfect handbag.
Tell us about your appearance on the new UK series of Dragons’ Den
Dragon’s Den was a whirlwind of an experience. Our only strategy was to stick to our values, a kind of take it or leave it strategy; this is us. Yes, it’s niche, yes, it’s vegan, and yes, it’s an expensive product to make… but, do you like it?
Each of the Dragons said they were very impressed by the luxury quality of the handbag. A big tick for us and that was really all we needed to hear. The erotic signature detail raised some eyebrows, but Steven Bartlett could see the market and how as a company we stood apart.
The beauty of the whole experience has been the feedback from the viewers (now customers). They love the concept and the brand as a whole. We only intend on making things even more exciting for our new-found crowd; expect parties, supper clubs and general revelry along the way.
We were successful in the Den and now the real work has begun.
What sustainability trends do you predict for the fashion industry for 2022?
Plant-based leathers will be more popular than ever and we think we will start to see a bigger push towards circular made products.
Plant-based leathers will be more popular than ever
We have been working on some circular design ideas for quite some time but it’s a tricky one to get perfect in the luxury market. We will get there, it’s the future.
What is your five-year vision for Frida Rome?
To be globally known, not just as a vegan brand but as a freedom-loving and inspiring company that seeks to excite, not just sell. FRIDA ROME boutiques will open; places where romantics, rebels and reformers gather. Come for a coffee, handbag or just to say hello but leave on a high whether you’re vegan or not.
We hope to build a cult following of rebels with a cause and be part of the future of the luxury fashion & lifestyle industries, creating profit whilst giving back to the planet.