Frank chats to handmade bag designer Marj Hogarth about her range that she lovingly stitches from vintage re-purposed materials.
Marj, How are you today?
Marj Hogarth: I’m in fine fettle. I always start with a coffee and I check my emails for orders or anything I need to attend to.
It’s always exciting when an order comes in and I love seeing where the things I’ve made are heading. I love imagining where my bags will end up.
Tell us about Hook and Hatchet, when did the idea first start to germinate and why?
Marj Hogarth: Hook and Hatchet was basically born out of the current pandemic. I need to be busy so having cooked all the meals and baked all the bread, I was desperate to find something creative with which to fill my time. I had made myself some clothes but that wasn’t scratching the itch.
I started out making bags from coffee sacks as I had some left over from a sofa that I covered years ago. I loved the look and feel but it was really hard to work with. I’m lucky to have some wonderfully generous friends. Our beautiful friend Nia sent me straps she had hand-cut for me in her studio in Wales; our fabulous friends Saul and Rachel, who have two wonderful vintage boutiques called Bounce, brought me a load of clothes to work with. Being a jobbing actor, I’ve always had to make do and mend so I’m a natural at up-cycling.
How was it getting back to the sewing machine?
Marj Hogarth: I loved getting back to sewing. It gave me a purpose that was lacking during lockdown and a much-needed sense of achievement. I love any creative process and find sewing incredibly mindful.
Where do you find your fabrics and is the importance of sustainability a factor in your personal life as well?
Marj Hogarth: I work with vintage clothing and blankets. Although it’s very time consuming as each garment is different, it means I am constantly thinking about how to approach each bag.
I have always had a really strong sense of self and have been passionate about design. I vividly remember putting outfits together when I was about seven years old, knowing how I wanted to look and having to improvise as I didn’t have the right gear.
Growing up, pretty much everything I wore was second hand; I was always seeking out something different that you couldn’t find in regular shops.
What does sewing and design bring to your life?
Marj Hogarth: It brought structure to the endless days of lockdown and it enabled my mind to be at peace. It also gives me a much-needed sense of achievement and self-worth and provides me with an income.
I’m someone with a very creative brain and part of the problem is I have too many ideas, so it’s been valuable learning to focus on the task at hand. Every time I make something I’m already thinking of the next thing before the current task is finished and that really isn’t ideal.
I’m realising that within any creative process there has to be discipline. Ideas are free, but it takes focus and work to bring them to fruition.
What advice do you have for other women who want a new professional direction in life?
Marj Hogarth: I think the most important thing when starting a business or any other endeavour is not to lose sight of YOU.
I’ve known people who started businesses, became successful incredibly quickly and it’s made them deeply unhappy because they felt as if they were creating a monster they couldn’t control. We all want different things in life but the most important thing is to value what YOU want.
As women, it can be difficult to do that as we get older, especially as menopause can rob us of our confidence and our coping mechanisms.
Who is your sounding board in your business?
Marj Hogarth: My partner Keith Brymer Jones is my sounding board. He’s had his own business for many years. We are very close and I talk all the time so he doesn’t get much of a choice when it comes to talking business.
You are very much involved in the ‘journey’ of each product. Does it give you pleasure that these bags have a unique history and are enjoyed by your customers?
Marj Hogarth: Each bag I make has its own story. I know where every piece of cloth has come from. For example, I recently made a Harris Tweed Hopper from a jacket that had been cut down many times to fit each member of the family that had worn it.
There was very little of the cloth I could use, I think it’s the oldest piece of Tweed I’ve had! The side panels were made with faux fur cut from a vintage cape I wore for years and the lining was salvaged from a terrible leather jacket that I bought in a charity shop to cut up for straps.
What has been the best thing about the whole process?
Marj Hogarth: The most significant thing I’ve gained through this whole process is confidence.
I had a rather difficult relationship with my ex-husband. We were together for nearly 20 years and that period made me very much “smaller”. I also had a very early menopause and these two things combined certainly didn’t help me to feel particularly good about myself. Now I’m learning to trust that my ideas and opinions have value.
I’ve also learned that what I consider an achievement is all that matters. When one sets out on any creative journey people are quick to tell us what we SHOULD want and SHOULD do to be successful – but success is a very subjective thing. Not everyone wants or needs to be Amazon!
Follow Hooknhatchet on Instagram at @marjhookhatchet to get the latest updates from them!