HILLS & WEST

One of the many things we love about what we do is uncovering incredible Australian women who are following their dreams and creating amazing things. One such person is Aisha Hillary, founder and designer at Hills & West, a boutique accessories label with an exquisitely curated collection of bags, clutches and folios all handmade right here in Australia. Her designs fuse function and form, impeccably stylish but also cleverly designed, with a timeless and minimalist aesthetic (and affordable price tag). With designs for both men and women (and our exclusive discount code Quirky2015), these pieces make the perfect Chrissy gift.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and career prior to launching Hills & West? From a career perspective, my usual one-liner is; I have 15 years experience in strategy, communications and digital, across multiple channels, in many varied industries and start-ups. I would say I love new experiences, delving into different businesses and creating things. I think this is where Hills & West came from.

What inspired you to start designing handbags? I have always loved handbags. I adore the different shapes, how they are designed for specific uses, the materials they are made from, the stories and history behind them. Also, how happy a unique find or new addition to your wardrobe can make you feel. 

How did it all start? Each year I always try to learn a new skill, so in October 2014 I booked myself into Ars Sutoria in Milan (I was already in Europe for work), on an intensive handbag-making course.  As well as teaching me the fundamentals of handbag design and production, the teacher, who had been a pattern maker for Hermes and Louis Vuitton, taught me how to appreciate traditional techniques and the importance of quality and craftsmanship.  I was hooked. When I returned to Sydney I called the CEO of the tech company I was working for and told him I was going to resign and make handbags.

You mentioned your Eat, Pray, Love … ‘discovery’ tour …. How did that shape/influence your direction? Ah, yes, this was really about finding my passions again. I had just resigned from a pretty great but hectic global role in a tech company and wanted to take stock. I knew I wanted to create lifestyle accessories, to collaborate with like-minded creatives and I wanted to give back in some kind of way. I had no idea what that looked like, however after 10 days of Vipassana and travelling for 4 months through countries like India and Nepal, you quickly realise what you love and how lucky you are. Hills & West evolved over my travels. I wrote about my experiences and what inspired me, refined my first collection and was touched by the wonderful children of the orphanage in Nepal that I now support. 

Why the name Hills & West? It’s a combination of my nickname, Hills, and the influences from my strong Western European upbringing, West Europe, Holland. Plus, I think two is always better than one, and Hills & West had a ring to it.  

Where do you draw inspiration from for your gorgeous designs? I really wanted to create luxury accessories that incorporated smart design, traditional craftsmanship and premium materials. Aspiring to declutter and simplify my own life, I created a staple collection of functional yet stylish everyday cardholders, folios, clutches and a backpack, designing for the modern man or woman, on the go, without the luxury price tag. When I was travelling in my corporate role I was all about minimising my luggage and having versatile and durable accessories.

Tell us a bit about where/who manufactures your bags and your raw materials. My bags are designed and handmade here in Sydney. This gorgeous couple who have been hand making bags for over 35 years work with me to refine and ensure that the bags are of the best quality and durable. I also buy all my leathers from NSW Leather. My hardware is imported, as currently I can find the best quality from overseas. It is a balance between supporting local businesses whilst creating the best product possible.

How would you describe yourself in four words? Energetic, passionate, creative and organised. 

What are you passionate about? New experiences. I love meeting new people, understanding how different businesses work and creating things or strategies that are unique or can make a bit of a difference. I love that Hills & West has given me a vehicle to live and breathe my passion. Very fortunate.

www.hillsandwest.com

Enter Quirky2015 to receive a 10% discount on all purchases made before December 20.