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Ten Years? Ten Years!!! - Unbelievable

Ten years? Ten years!! I can’t believe that it has actually been ten years!!! Where has the time gone? But then when I think of all the ways in which Vida Vida has grown in such a variety of different directions the decade anniversary seems to not be such a surprise. Ten years is definitely cause for celebration so excuse me if I reminisce somewhat but I think a little history seems apt.

My wife, Andreya and I met whilst we were travelling in Fiji and started Vida Vida at the end of a round-the-world trip. We were (and still are) travelling obsessed and had had lots of fun and adventures and back then we were in Argentina planning what we would do once we arrived home. I had finished uni at UCL where I had studied geography and then tried my luck at a range of professions to try and get some travel money together before heading off on my travels. I had tried bar journalism (writing about bars - not so good for alcohol consumption levels), wedding catering and carpentry to name a few but none had a really grabbed me and given me any real inspiration to go back to them upon my return.

Along our trip we had seen beautifully woven textiles, handmade jewellery, incredible leather work and some beautiful clothes all of which were unique to one area of the globe. Quality was everything - things were built to last from the best materials each country had to offer. We loved the attention to detail, the skills involved and the cultural significance. We were inspired!

 

Andreya had already been working in fashion before we left but this method of production was something new. So our idea became apparent - we wanted to start a company that encouraged traditional workmanship, incredible quality, fairness and a combination of our style with that of each artisan. And so Vida Vida was born - we had been in Argentina when we decided on the name. It’s meaning “Life Life” is just a gentle reminder to us that our lives and the lives of those who we work with need to work in balance and harmony.

So off we went with this bohemian ethos fresh in our minds. Our first port of call was a stall at Portobello Road Saturday Market. Here we would arrive at 4am in the hope of getting a good pitch, until we realised that if my beautiful Andreya went up at 7am we would still get a better pitch than if I went at 4. Our lesson learnt we then started being able to do Spitalfield Market on a Sunday (without fear of exhaustion) and then went on to having stalls at almost all of London’s fashion markets. 

During this period we were offering handmade cowboy boots from Guatemala, beautiful silver rings and hand-crafted saddle bags from Mexico, alpaca knitwear from Peru and stunning leather and fused-glass handbags from Argentina. At this point we were travelling during the quiet business months of January, February and March on a constant search for new and wonderful products and crafts-people to make our designs.

 

Anniversary Collage

Whilst on a camel safari in India we came upon a a very special man called Dinesh (or Dennis as we call him). His father had taught him all there was to know about leather work and he specialised in a unique, vintage-like, suntanned goat leather, which gave all his bags a beautifully characterful aged appearance. Anything vintage-looking was right up our street so we loved all that Dennis could make us and over the next few months we stayed put in the small desert town where Dennis lived and decided to start a fair-trade workshop with Dennis.

The idea was simple, we would design a range of bags, satchels and travel bags, with heavy influence from the vintage classic designs that we loved and use Dennis’s expert craftsmanship to make sure that they were made just right. From this point on Vida Vida saw quick expansion- the Indian workshop went from 3 skilled craftsman to the 43 that it has at the moment, the wholesale side of the business grew exponentially, we added several more market stalls and the rise of internet retail meant that we focussed on online sales as well.

Have no fear we weren’t working constantly! We were still lucky enough to spend 3 or 4 months in India each year, to make sure all was well in the workshop and to continue to explore the vast country that we had developed such a love for. We were always on the lookout for new treasures and had a brief dabble in importing incredible vintage furniture until my back said stick with the lighter stuff. At this point we were lucky enough to start a family and had 2 beautiful boys - Herbie who is now 4 (and a half- its all about the halves at that age) and Reggie who is almost 2.

 

On top of all of this business expansion we have also managed to raise over £10,000 for Unicef, which we thought a worthy charity as they do lots of great work in areas close to our workshop. (A lot of this money was gained from my swim across the English Channel in 2014 (I know I’m blowing my own trumpet but Andreya said I have to mention it as lots of loyal customers donated to the cause so many thanks if you contributed.)

 

Our ranges have now expanded to include all manner of handmade leather accessories and leather bags and stunning silver jewellery. We have a few exciting new ideas in the pipeline such Vida Vida Cashmere and Vida Vida Home, which will be starting very soon. These new ranges allow more creativity on our side and also the meeting and working with more wonderful people from around the world, which continues to be our main inspiration.

So so far so good - we enjoy every day with our young sons and we still love nurturing Vida Vida as it continues to grow and develop in an organic fashion (organic fashion actually sums up what we are trying to achieve!).

 

Chocolate Easter Eggs - Or a Bag To Put Them In?

With Easter finally upon us, almost every shop I have been into this last week, from supermarkets to health food shops, has been selling multiple variations of chocolate eggs.

 

I am a sucker for chocolate, and so I am sure I would appreciate a sweet treat this weekend, but I was thinking last night about the sheer amount of chocolate that must be given at this time of year; from crème eggs to Malteaster bunnies, Easter is the time for chocolate (and a few hot cross buns!).

 

But what if you’ve got used to not eating chocolate after giving it up for lent? Or you’ve stuck with your clean eating New Year’s Resolution and don’t want to give up now? Or you just – strange, I know, but these people do exist – don’t like chocolate very much?  If so, maybe receiving a huge amount won’t be that great come the weekend.

Oh, and perhaps the image below will be a bit more incentive for you.  It certainly scared me!

easter-eggcercise

 

After much thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that, as chocolate eggs might not be for everyone, we should instead start giving something that no one can say no to: bags!

 

 Vida Vida - loved by chicks everywhere!

 

Who would turn down an amazing leather saddle bag?  Or a gorgeous naturally suntanned leather travel bag?

 

So if you’ve not yet splurged on a huge nest full of mini chocolate eggs, why not buy your loved ones a beautiful bag!

 

Not only will it be way more original, but it will last them quite a lot longer (as I know Easter eggs normally last a few hours at most), and you can buy the unsold chocolate on Tuesday for half the price – the best of both worlds!

 

Backpacking? Not Now We Have Two Young Kids In Tow!

How things have changed! This time five years ago Matt and I would have been slinging on our rucksacks and taking a twenty hour bus journey (to save a few quid) so that we could stay in very basic lodgings whilst hunting for treasures to bring to our Vida Vida stalls and site. One such trip involved a two month journey around Mexico and Guatemala in search of the perfect sandal.

 

Now however, we have our two little boys and so, our priorities have drastically changed, which is how we found ourselves last month at The Sani Resort in Hakidiki, Greece.  We had friends who had been and told us it was the perfect place for a relaxing holiday with little ones. Having hung up our rucksacks almost four years ago (when Herbie was born), we have become rather partial to an all-inclusive luxury holiday so we thought this place sounded right up our street.

 

sani-village

 

The easyJet flight time of 5.50am did not quite fit with making it easy for the kids, but everything that came after that did. We were met by a private car and whisked off to the resort (whilst Herbie watched Despicable Me on a DVD player in the car!) and we were greeted with welcome drinks whilst our bags were taken straight to our room. The restaurant had been fully booked for the first night, so our only option was to relax. Although this isn't usually easy with two under 4s, Sani do everything they can to make it possible.

 Pirate-games-melissa-mini-club-sani-resort

 

I don’t know where to start on how they make such relaxation possible: they have literally thought of everything! From hiring scooters to make it easy for toddlers to journey around the massive resort, to their range of amazing playgrounds, pools and beaches. There are fantastic kids’ clubs, crèches, discos and babysitting facilities and even splash times in the amazing adults’ spa pools. Now I know a lot of these things are available in other resorts, but this one really does go even further; they have babe watch on the beach where you can leave your child with a nanny for 30 minutes each day whilst you take a dip or read a book (for free!) and there are supervised play tables in some of the restaurants – utterly genius – with books, colouring in and lovely staff there to entertain the kids while you get to enjoy a seriously gourmet breakfast or an amazing dinner.

 

sani resort greece fun

 

I could seriously go on about this resort forever, so as you can imagine I cannot recommend it enough. I would say however, that we went out of season so it was not at full capacity, and during their peak times you might need to re-mortgage your house to go. But if you can manage to get the kids out of school (oops, I really should not encourage that after the recent change in the law) or they haven't started yet I would jump at the chance to visit this amazing place!

The Sani Resort - Greece

Christmas is Coming - Get Organized NOW!

It seems ridiculous that we have started thinking about Christmas, but with Halloween out of the way and Guy Fawkes Night just over, winter seems truly to be upon us. Reminiscing last night on last year’s mad rush the week before Christmas Day, I decided that I would be more organised this time and try to have all of my Christmas presents bought before December really hits us.  As I’ve set myself this (seemingly improbable) target, I figured making it public may be the incentive I need to ensure that come 23rd December, I am not running around Oxford Street (although it’s beautiful at this time, it is also terrifying), desperately searching for that one specific toy that the boys wanted so desperately or the ‘sold out everywhere’ Christmas toy of the year.

 

To motivate myself, and maybe even a few of you, I thought I would share the top three tips I found for buying presents that friends and family will love for years to come:

 

1.  Although it sounds pretty obvious, finding out what your loved ones would like really is the start to buying them an awesome gift. Whether you ask them straight up, or try to discover what’s on their Christmas present wish list more subtly, it’s important to have an idea of what they would appreciate. So, before you impulse-buy something that not only they might never use, but could also be a waste of your own money, set out to uncover what they really want. And don’t forget to drop some subtle hints about the presents you’d like while doing this!

 

2.  This may sound like another obvious tip, but keeping organised is pretty important. Make a list of all of the people you want to buy Christmas gifts for, and when you covertly discover what they want, or just stumble upon an idea, write it down. You will therefore have a go-to list of all the options you have and there’ll be no mix-ups – hopefully! This is also really useful when it comes to Christmas budgeting and making sure you don’t forget anyone.

 

3.  Last but definitely not least (in fact, probably the best advice out there): order things online. Not only does it stop you from traipsing around every department store looking for the same item, but it means you have more time available and can really appreciate the beautiful Christmas Markets (which we have carefully researched and recommended to you) and all of the endless amazing events during the best season!

 

One last word of advice for any of you who successfully manage to get the Christmas shopping finished before December begins; find a good hiding place! Oh, and for some great gift ideas for those who don’t know themselves, check out some of our lovely bags, satchels and leather accessories.  This year we can even emboss any leather gift with your own personal message (more on that later).