I have a serious case of kit lust. Ciré‘s wonderful waxed canvas creations are designed by outdoors nut Alison Vard, who finds inspiration in the mountains and the sea for her practical yet beautiful sorbet-coloured rucksacks, wash bags and wetsuit bags.
Who knew waxed canvas could look quite this lovely? Alison hand makes her creations in a little London studio, ready for adventurous souls to tote on their trips – like my swimming pool-blue Ciré bucket bag, £30, which is coming camping with me on the Isle of Skye. Alison told me all about her love of retro outdoors kit and the painstaking process behind creating each of her designs.
Tell me the story of Ciré – what inspired you to start making your creations?
I’ve always been attracted to sewing and the endless creative possibilities it allows you. After I left the Alps last year I finally had some space and time to fully commit myself to sewing. I’d had my heart set on waxed canvas for a while and when I realised I could realistically make it in my studio, Ciré was born.
How are you inspired by the outdoors and the sea?
I like the idea that I’m carrying a bit of holiday and adventure with me when I carry my waxed canvas bag. I really love all the neat accessories and gadgets you can find for camping and travelling, and this is really what I have in mind when I create a bag: multi-usage, foldable, light, water repellent, tough but also aesthetically pleasing and responsibly made. I’m also influenced by utilitarian bags and accessories, the rough thick canvas sort used by old school Alpine explorers, but I’m trying to do it with a twist, incorporating beautiful patterns, shapes and also jazzy colours. One of the first bags I made was a wetsuit bag, I really enjoy making use-orientated stuff to take on surf trips.
What kind of girl do you imagine toting a Ciré bag?
My bags are made for explorers and adventurers! People who are looking for something special and attractive, practical and long-lasting. I’m obviously targeting like-minded people in love with the outdoors, the sea, the mountains… people who need to cart their gear around in all kinds and shapes of bags.
What’s the process of crafting each handmade item?
I prepare the waxed canvas myself, so before I can start making a bag I need to hand-dye and then hand-wax my fabrics. I like to work with small quantities – it really helps to get the perfect shade and texture, and it adds to the uniquness of each bag I create. I wax my fabrics with a blend of beeswax and paraffin wax, which is quite a laborious process! When my waxed canvas is ready I decide on what type of bag I want to make depending on demand or new ideas, I also decide if I want to add leather or vintage fabrics to the bags. I’ve got a big stash of beautiful vintage cloth in my studio, I love to have a look through them and match them to the shades of waxed canvas I’ve finished. I sew all my bags on an old Bernina sewing machine.
What do you love to do when you aren’t crafting?
I love being outside. For the past three years I’ve been working seasons with my husband, working in the Alps in the winter, snowboarding our hearts out and surfing the west coast of France in the summer. Surfing is definitely the hardest sport I’ve taken up, I never seem to progress but I really enjoy it! Now we live in London we’ve dusted down our tennis rackets, longboards and slack-line. Most weekends we drive our van to the coast for a splash around if the waves are good.
What’s next for Ciré?
I’m still working on expanding my clientele and getting more exposure. Ideally I’d like to be selling through small local shops as well as online, and in my daydreams I’m working from a studio by the coast 🙂
Shop Cire on Etsy for more of Alison’s beautiful designs, from £6.