Back in July 2019 we met with Kresse Wesling co-founder of Elvis & Kresse who rescues raw materials which would otherwise go to landfill, and transforms them into beautiful, aspirational bags, accessories and homeware.
We caught up with Kresse again (virtually of course….) in February to hear her latest news and the innovations Elvis & Kreese has been working on.
First, how is Elvis and Kresse going?
Since we last met, Elvis & Kreese has continued to develop our collection with new products rescuing over 14 tonnes of waste material and in 2021 we proudly made our biggest ever donation to charity of almost £100,000.
We are still challenging the fashion industry with small batch production, limited editions due to the availability of rescued materials, seasonless ranges, and no discounting.
Why relocate the business to a farm and move to regenerative agriculture?
The business had outgrown the previous premises, so we looked for a new site. The biggest drivers were to have enough space not to need to move again, and to keep our skilled workforce, so the search was limited to a small area close to our original location.
Farms tend to have both space and buildings but also give the opportunity to act directly to achieve our net zero carbon targets, without offsetting, by managing our footprint ourselves, and also addressing biodiversity loss. Our vision is to grow the business but with a net positive impact, rescuing more materials and donating more to charity.
We bought the 17-acre New Barns Farm in December 2020. Since then, along with restoring the buildings using straw bale construction methods, the landscape of the farm has completely changed. A new wetland sewage treatment plant – the most beautiful in the world I think – has been installed, which passively treats all our wastewater. 3,000 native trees have been planted by hand, and in April we will be planting over 11,000 vines, all prepared with our own compost made from local waste. To keep the rabbits at bay, tree guards have been made from firehose which couldn’t be used to make bags.
Working with “Growing Kent and Medway”, an organisation driving innovation by collaboration, 20 different species of trees have been selected through symbiotic planting research. The farm will produce fruit and food which is beyond organic and biodynamic, with better yields from less costly inputs.
The farm is ideally suited for growing vines, we are looking forward to sampling the first Elvis and Kreese wine – a perfect complement to a luxury handbag business.
What new innovations have you been working on?
We have been working with Queen Mary college to develop a solar powered forge. The vision is to make the buckles for our belts from littered aluminium, powered by the sun, safely and inexpensively. The first piece was forged in August 2021 and work is ongoing to perfect the casting and testing for performance. This research is open-sourced and will be used to benefit communities worldwide.
We partner with the Barefoot College, an enabling charity engaged in health and wellbeing education, women’s empowerment, and electrification through solar power for poor rural people. We fund scholarships in Guatemala, supporting women to become solar engineers. We are looking forward to working with these engineers as future business partners learning from each other about solar technology despite being in different geographies.
Jewellery is often given as a meaningful gift but in many cases without good provenance of the raw materials. We plan to make jewellery via the solar powered forge, using rescued materials.
In our R&D pipeline, we are working on other waste materials which we will start to use to make more second life products.
Our bags and homewares are timeless designs made from materials with longevity, we are looking at a range of “third life” refurbished products in the future.
What is your focus for the next few months?
Perfecting the casting in the solar forge and planting vines. Also, our new eco-workshop, which is solar powered and air source heated, will be opening in the Spring and we can’t wait to welcome visitors as the world opens again.