LA based British Mum of 2, Rebecca Gutsell is the founder of the Gg bébé and we have been friends for years. I interviewed Becky to find out more about her incredible business and how she turns fabric offcuts and pre loved clothing into bespoke, handmade accessories for grown ups and babies which are not only really stylish, but are practical.
Tell us about your fabulous brand?
My brand is Gg bébé and I make accessories for grown-ups and babies. The “GG” in the name comes from my son’s initials and the “bébé” is because I started out making baby products (for my son) and decided to use the French word for baby in reference to the fact that I lived in France for 5 years and thought it had a nice ring to it.
What inspired you to start Gg bébé?
Essentially, Gg bébé, was inspired by a need for products for my son and me, as a parent, that not only looked good but were practical.
When my son, Gabe, was starting to toddle about on his feet but not quite walking my husband suggested that I try to make some shoes for him, since I knew how to make women’s shoes. After a few tweaks I’d made him a pair which he wore every day and then I made other pairs for him, and for friends as baby gifts. I also designed and made a changing clutch for myself as we were going to a family daytime party, and I didn’t want to take the huge baby bag along (it would’ve ruined the look of my outfit…vanity first!!). This worked well and friends liked it, so I was encouraged to try and sell the baby shoes and changing clutches at local markets.
I’ve since designed and made other purses in different sizes for different needs; a mini pouch for my daughter’s dummy (which is now used to carry my keys, and I have one for coins); a phone pouch for me when I go walking,…and so on.
What’s your background?
I studied languages at school and University and then went on to become an Executive Assistant for 12 years, first in Paris, then in London. During that time, I went to Hong Kong with a friend to visit her parents and discovered their “Shoe Man” who made fabulous bespoke women’s shoes for a reasonable price. It started me thinking about trying to import them or start something similar in the UK.
This led me to a 2-day shoemaking course at Prescott & Mackay, London, to see how it all worked. I remember being exhausted at the end of the 2 days but also so excited and proud at having produced something tangible. I realised that I wasn’t getting the same fulfilment from my efforts at my day job, so I went on to do more part-time courses in shoemaking, shoe design, pattern making, illustration, etc at the London College of Fashion, with a view to making or designing women’s shoes, starting when I went on maternity leave. Then after the arrival of Gabe, the original Gg baby, the plan slightly changed!
You make all of the bags and shoes yourself, what do you make them out of?
I use pretty much any fabric, textile, leather that I like or can get my hands on. I’ve used my husband’s old work shirts and I use a lot of denim which is sourced from old jeans; firstly ours, and then when I run out of those, I get them from charity shops and I used to get a lot from WRAP in Watford, a recycling project.
I also buy a lot of leather from the off-cuts or bargain bins at my various suppliers. They often have areas in the warehouse where they keep the last/unwanted skins from their corporate customers, which are marked down in price, and then bins with the off-cut pieces which are priced by weight.
While I do sometimes buy new fabrics or textiles – for example the laminated cotton for the changing mat lining in my changing clutch, as I need a large piece and it has to be easy to clean and seamless for the baby/toddler’s comfort – I really try to use off-cuts or bargain bin pieces as much as possible as I think it is important to use what we already have and not create more waste. It also helps keep my costs down and enables me to create unique pieces, so it’s a win-win situation. I don’t want to make 50 identical pieces; I like creating products that are slightly different each time and being as sustainable as possible helps me to achieve that.
Where can we buy your items from?
I’m currently stocked in Ten Women Gallery, 2719 Main Street, Santa Monica, California and I’m in talks with another store in California about an exclusive collection. Otherwise, my website here www.ggbebe.com I also ship to the UK and Australia. Please contact me if you see a photo on the website that you like but it’s not in the online shop as it doesn’t mean that I can’t make another one or something very similar. Custom orders are always very welcome.
Who inspires you and why?
My Mam has always made clothes for herself and us, as a hobby not commercially, so I would often sit and chat to her while she was sewing. I never thought I’d go down the creative route, but I obviously absorbed a lot of that from her.
I’m inspired by anyone who works hard, in whatever it is they do, and who is honest about how hard they work. I’m always disappointed when I hear someone say that something they’ve achieved was easy because I think it rarely is. I think it’s important to share experiences and knowledge with others, good and bad, and anyone who is willing to do that inspires me.
Got any podcasts you can recommend?
I used to always listen to music when I go out walking but last year I started to listen to podcasts and I’ve become slightly obsessed with them! There are a lot of British ones…:
- Table Manners with Jessie Ware
- Spinning Plates with Sophie Ellis-Bextor
- Changes with Annie Macmanus
- Jools and Jim’s Joyride
- The Jump with Shirley Manson
These two are great for business ideas/help/inspiration: