Beara Beara

Founder of Beara Beara, designer, travel writer, and cyclist, Jake Bullough has many a string to his bow. I met him at Beara Beara’s headquarters, tucked away inside a lane just off the main stretch of Kings Cross station. The place itself gives a calm atmosphere, and the wooden shelves subtlety compliments the brand’s leather bags. Bullough is tall and slim, with a brown beard. Looking casual in a burgundy sweater, he greets me warmly with a confident handshake.

某日中午,因為學校課業的關係,有機會到英國手工皮件 Beara Beara 參訪。位於倫敦 Kingscross 附近的巷子,雖然離車站只有不到五分鐘的距離,卻和喧鬧的主要街道完全不同;眼前獨樹一格的英倫小店,有著藍灰色外牆,氣質安靜。而木頭地板和展示櫃,恰到好處襯托了品牌的復古風格,每件皮革都像在說一個故事般,特別有味道。品牌的創辦人 Jake Bullough 身材高瘦,穿著酒紅色的毛衣,以友善的笑容歡迎著我們。

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Bullough’s first experience with handcrafted leather bags happened during a stay in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. He met with Julia, who had been making and selling bags for many years with her family. Their skills had been passed down through generations, with a small workshop making simple belts and bags. However, they were buying expensive materials, and find it difficult to sell enough for their craftsmanship. Thus, Bullough started helping them by suggesting different styles, constructions, and designs, hoping to improve the situation. “The idea was that if they could improve their bags they could then sell more which would improve their livelihoods.” He wanted to give something back to the local people, and support Bolivia socially. The collaboration soon developed into the former travel writer’s first collection of designs. In 2012, Beara Beara was born.

Jake 在成立 Beara Beara 前是一名旅遊作家,籌備新書時在南美洲的坡利維亞遇見了 Julia。Julia 與家人在製作皮件方面有著多年的經驗。他們的技術代代相傳,並擁有一家小小的皮革店面,販售著簡單的包款與皮帶。然而 Julia 發現,為了維持品質,他們不停地在購入昂貴的材料,卻無法獲得足夠的銷量來補足成本,生計也面臨困難。因此,Jake 開始替他們想辦法,在包包的結構、風格與形狀提出不同的建議,希望能改善當時的情況。他表示 「我最初的想法是希望透過設計來改變他們的皮革包,增加銷量與提高他們的生活品質。 」這樣的合作漸漸發展成品牌的第一個系列;於是,在 2012 年,Beara Beara 在網路上成立了。

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It may have been only four years since Jake created Beara Beara in London, but he and his team have already made some significant changes in Bolivia. They have always based their business on the idea of assisting the locals to help themselves. While working closely with them, Beara Beara’s workshop in Bolivia has expanded from one local family into more than 80 employees. When I asked him about how has Bolivia changed since his first visit, “The changes have been in the people’s lives that we work with” says Bullough, “We employ a lot of single mothers and they are able to base their work around their parenting needs”. As what Julio Reas, the factory owner in Bolivian says in the documentary, “The important thing is my children live better than me…it’s a standard we hadn’t known before.”

從網路商店一路發展到實體店面已經過了四年多,Beara Beara 位於玻利維亞的工坊也一直在擴大;從原本的單一小家庭,擴增到現在的八十人。「我們在他們的生活中看見了改變。」Jake 說,「工坊雇用了很多單親媽媽,彈性的工作時間,讓她們在賺錢之餘也能好好地照顧家庭。學生也是一樣的,在不影響課業的前提下,提供他們傍晚與假日的打工時段。」仔細觀察,不難發現改善貧瘠與回饋當地生活,是 Jake 與團隊十分注重的品牌精神之一;在他們努力下,給予玻利維亞人們更多就業機會,以及自給自足的能力。工坊負責人 Julio Reas 也在品牌的紀錄片中提到,「現在我的孩子過得生活比我好,這對我來說才是最重要的,這是我們從來不曾體驗過的生活品質。」

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Jake has shuttled back and forth between London and Bolivia for the past few years. “It is a fascinating country…I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a little adventure” he describes, “the culture is very diverse so no matter where you are there are always new clothes, food, and traditions.” Many of Beara Beara’s designs are centered around the tradition of Bolivia — with vintage Andean clothing (locally known as ‘aguayos’). They infused not just the hard work and skills of Bolivians, but also their culture and history.

玻利維亞對 Jake 來說不單單只是工作的地方,同樣也是他自己十分喜愛的國家。「她是個迷人的國家,我建議任何喜愛冒險的人去走走。當地的文化很多元,不論你在哪裡,總是能發現新的人事物。」而品牌也不僅僅是注入玻利維亞的工藝技能,其中的圖騰與設計同時包含著他們的歷史和文化;像是當地的傳統織紋 Aguayos,就常常在 Beara Beara 的許多包款中出現。

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Bullough grew up in the southwest of Ireland, “I am very fond of where I grew up” he says, this leads to him using the Beara Peninsula as his inspiration for the brand’s name. Now, Jake is based in London. “I think the diversity of people is a big attraction”, he likes to explore different parts of the city, and visit local cafes because they give him a glimpse of people’s life in the area. “Sometimes the contacts you make are just as important in business as your own capabilities” he adds.

身兼品牌創辦人和設計師的 Jake 來自愛爾蘭西南部,因為對於家鄉有著深厚的情感,所以在為品牌命名時,便以從小長大的 Beara Peninsula 作為發想。現在的他落腳於倫敦,我好奇地問,那相較之下,這城市最吸引他的特色是什麼?「人的多樣性。」他說。的確,以一個文化鎔爐之城來說,倫敦人沒有特定「樣貌」,都是來自世界各個地方。有時候只是隔了一站,街景與氣氛就有著很大的不同。「在空閒時除了騎自行車,我也愛探索倫敦不同的區域或咖啡館」Jake 認為,走入人群是了解風俗民情最直接的方式。

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Beara Beara has always been more than just about making beautiful leather bags, to Jake, it is about empathy, adventure, and experiences. With this in mind, it is no surprise to hear he is always interested in exploring new collaborations for Beara Beara. Just like what he says in the end of the interview — “Because life is pretty much a long intriguing adventure”.

一直以來,Beara Beara 從不只著重於創造美麗的皮革配件,它富含了對社群的同理心、對世界依然冒險好奇的精神,以及那些對自己深刻的經歷。說不定在不久的將來,我們就能在更多的城市看見 Beara Beara;也許是個性使然,又或許是因為擁有旅遊作家的背景,Jake 對於任何未知的人事物都抱持著樂觀的態度。對於品牌未來的發展也是,他不將品牌設限,總是做好迎接不同機會與挑戰的準備。就如同他說的,「人生說穿了,其實就是場有趣的長期冒險!」

This article is also published on Polysh.

in collaboration with Beara Beara.// shot on Nikon DF with 24-85mm lens.