Rescue, Transform, Donate - Elvis and Kresse
How a chance meeting sparked our imagination... and the launch of a brand new multitasking design!
We literally stumbled upon Elvis & Kresse when we were lost on some of Kent’s country lanes. We invited ourselves in on an impromptu tour of their studio... and we were flabbergasted!
In the middle of nowhere we found something only these two could have dreamt up, something they have received national recognition for, something of global significance, yet most of the people in their local community have no idea about...
Masters of sustainability and upcycling, since 2005 Elvis & Kresse have been perfecting the technique of turning decommissioned firehoses into an exciting alternative textile – beautiful, characterful, robust (and mostly but not all, red!)
After a chance encounter with The London Fire Brigade, they discovered that London's damaged, decommissioned hoses, having served their purpose to society, were headed to landfill. Dismayed at this awful prospect, Elvis & Kresse was set up to rescue these redundant fire-hoses and turn them into luxury fashion accessories and useful objects. So far, over 300 tonnes of material have been saved from going to landfill and 50% of their profits are donated back to charity, the largest beneficiary being The Fire Fighters Charity.
With a mind-set like that you don’t tend to stop there, so now they rescue other ‘left-overs’ and transforming them into highly desirable items. Since 2017 they have been working with the Burberry Foundation to solve the problem of the 35,000 tonnes of leather waste produced each year by the European luxury industry. The result is for instance a centrepiece in a Nashville 5 star hotel reception made entirely from off-cuts from Burberry’s production. If you have ever felt the leather of one of Burberry’s apparel pieces, you know it would be a cardinal sin to put any part of it into landfill. The Elvis & Kresse system transforms leather fragments from the production of Burberry leather goods into components which are then hand woven with a rather clever design, piece by piece, into whole new hides. They then make them into bags and rugs. An oh, and I nearly forgot to tell you, all the bags are of course lined using decommissioned parachute silk, another up cycling initiative.
So when you meet Elvis & Kresse you might feel a bit overwhelmed at first. Not only are they running their business in a rather unconventional way, but whilst Kresse is off lecturing in academic circles about sustainability and the future of fashion, Elvis is busy developing their farm and vineyard in their new premises near Faversham. They are always thinking about how things can be done better.
One of the first things they developed when they took over New Barns Farm was their own water treatment plant. Through a series of pools they turn their waste water into water you can swim in again... When we last visited they were planting organic vines!
So when we inadvertently stumbled across them, Elvis & Kresse’s story and in particular the repurposing of the redundant firehoses sparked a special place in the heart of The Oak and Rope Company. Sparked being the operative word. In 2014 we suffered a devastating fire at our original workshop. The workshop was burnt to the ground, but thanks to the amazing and careful work of the fire brigade, our office was not damaged, despite being in a remote location.
This was of course heartbreaking, but because we didn’t lose our computers and records, we were able to relocate our production to temporary premises within days, and hardly any of our customers ever knew about our fire until I became happy to talk about it years later when I recorded the video about our story. Stressful as this period was, I am so very grateful that I still have my business and livelihood today. I really do not know what would have happened if it had not been for the local fire brigade saving what they could in those early hours on that day...
So incorporating E&K’s fire-hose handles into our products came as a very natural and welcome opportunity for pay back to the Fire Brigade. Now, beautiful, red, firehose handles grace our new wine coolers , which also double as a compost bins. A multitasking product which fits in perfectly with someone who is trying to improve how we deal with all types of waste, at the same time as they are creating wine, bags and household products of the luxury kind!
Our collaboration does not end there. We are delighted to get our hands on some of that soft leather to put on the base of our chess pieces. We are currently working on making Oak & Rope off-cuts into dominos to be bagged into the gorgeous E & K bags, so watch this space!
They say the best things happen when you least expect it, and getting lost on those Kentish country lanes fortunately led us to the door of these environmental craft crusaders par excellence. And who knows, maybe one day our wine coolers will hold bottles of Elvis & Kresse wine!