What if we told you that drinking canned soda isn’t actually bad for the environment? In fact, you could be fueling the fashion environment by your very own consumption habits. By transforming upcycled aluminum bottle tops into a braided crochet design, Cameron Saul put the s back in fashion with his sustainable luxury brand, Bottletop. Oh yes, Campbell Soup wasn't the only one to use cans for marketing.
Charismatic and charming, Cameron Saul founded Bottletop as a charity foundation in 2002 as well as a fashion company in 2012. With a background in Business Management from King’s College in the UK, Cameron came up with the idea during his gap year before starting freshman year. “After I finished high school, I wanted to explore Africa as a local and ended up working with an organization that took Western volunteers and placed them in developing parts of the country to teach children about HIV prevention, sanitation and hygiene.” It was during this trip that Cameron stumbled upon a village that designed a bag made from recycled bottle tops in Uganda. Eureka!
“It is about cross-cultural collaboration through beautiful design and about empowering artisans and young people.”
Cameron’s family life was unlike most. He grew up on a farm that was built during the time of Henry the VIII; alongside the mentorship of his father, Roger Saul, founder of fashion brand Mulberry. Upon his return to the UK, Cameron brought back samples of the bag and tweaked the design to appeal to the European market. He then launched a campaign with Vogue in collaboration with Mulberry to test out the market in 2002. It became the best selling bag internationally for that season.
“We were able to raise 150,000 pounds for the charity organization I had worked for in Uganda, and support the teams in Nairobi and Cape Town who constructed the outside shell of the bag. I thought that this was a wonderful formula to build a brand upon. The DNA was all there.” Boom, and just like that Bottletop was created.
“We have developed a unique product and people need to physically touch it, feel it and hear the story.”
Bottletop products can be found anywhere from Japan, Canada, or Brazil to different parts of Europe. Priced between $65 to $1,500, they are extremely light weight since the chain is made from aluminum.
Despite engaging in wholesale and online distribution, “we are now focusing more on retail because we find that we can control the conversations we have with our customers better, get valuable feedback and share our story. For us, it is very much about the bigger conversation.”
The Power of Collaborations
The best way to grow an audience or gain a following as a new brand is through collaboration. Having limited resources and design knowledge, Cameron looked towards different fields such as art, music and design for partnerships. “We found artists to remix records the way we would remix the materials of the bag; giving it a more commercial edge.” Some other partnerships included working with high-end boutique hotels in the UK, fundraising through art auctions and exhibitions, and selling music albums and accessories to support the records. “It was through music that I met my partner, Oliver Wayman.” Take note folks, co-founders can come from anywhere and at anytime!
In order to grow their team and raise more funds, Bottletop developed their own signature line in Brazil in 2010 by crocheting the tabs into a luxury fabric-like use and partnering with Narciso Rodriguez. “This gave us a big opportunity to scale the business and market ourselves as a sustainable luxury brand.” Insider information: Jessica Alba spearheaded the introduction to Narciso.
The Supply Chain
Bottletop promotes itself as a sustainable fashion brand due to its usage of upcycled aluminum tabs as well sourcing its leather from cows that are raised on farms that protect the rainforest. Also known as zero deforestation farms. “We didn’t find anything in vegan leather that matched the quality we wanted.” Given its unique braiding technique, Bottletop manufactures its products in-house and is vertically integrated.
Besides focusing on product, product, product, Cameron tells us how he believes that “wholesale is the best way to test a product in the marketplace, but your margins will be small. Alternatively, today, pop-ups create an amazing opportunity to capture the brand ethos. Any brand starting out today should try to have end-to-end ownership of the supply chain and should support the environment. We can’t afford to live any other way. You should make a sustainable product that will have a positive impact.”
For those looking to shop online, mention promo code “ radiche ” for a 20% discount. If you are more of the social type, head on over to Bottletop’s current pop-up location at 199 Mott street, New York to say “hi” to Cameron. Let him know we sent you.
Photo courtesy of Bottletop.