Hailey Harmon, Creative Director for AITCH AITCH, balances sheer elegance with a touch of casualness. Hailey began her career working for a design team at MONIQUE PEAN’s atelier in New York City, a leading sustainable fine jewelry designer. In 2013, Harmon returned to her hometown of San Francisco to earn an MBA from the innovative California College of the Arts. After completing the MBA, she began working towards a second Master’s degree - studying with a renowned US-based leather crafter trained in traditional methods at Hermès in Paris.
AGB: How and when did you become aware of salmon skin as a new sustainable leather option?
HH : I first discovered salmon skin on a trip to Iceland a few summers ago. I was in Reykjavik for a few days and came across it there. I thought it was such a beautiful material, with this exotic look to it and an unexpected feel, almost like microsuede. When I returned home, I researched salmon skin and then learned even more during my time in business school; I found out that not only is salmon skin beautiful, but it’s also sustainable, as it’s a by-product of the fishing industry. It’s actually been used for centuries by ancient cultures and is just now breaking into the luxury market.
To process the salmon skin, I discovered an amazing family-owned tannery in Europe that’s been around for generations. They use all nontoxic, chrome-free tanning and dyeing processes, so the environmental impact compared to all other leathers is miniscule. I’m thrilled to be able to work with them, who are themselves dedicated to environmental sustainability in their business practices.
AGB: That’s so great to be able to produce high end, quality accessories with a minimal carbon footprint. Do you envision your company using other material options in the future, or do you think that salmon skin supplies will be abundant enough to cater to the new trend in the market place?
HH: I really appreciate you saying that! Making really high quality, beautiful pieces was the first and foremost priority when I decided to start AITCH AITCH. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to find and work with such amazing people, from tanning to manufacturing, in order to create such a high quality product that is intrinsically sustainable.
For now, I’m still experimenting with salmon skin, so I don’t see a new material coming up on the horizon, just yet. However, I have no doubt that with the rising importance of ethical materials in products, the market will produce similar materials which I will be excited to work with in the future.
The great thing about salmon skin is that it’s abundant, and it will continue to be as it’s sourced from sustainable fisheries, like the ones I work with. I think there’s quite a bit of growth potential there, as some of the material is discarded as opposed to tanned and turned into leather.
AGB: Where do you draw your ideas and inspiration?
HH: My inspiration for AITCH AITCH really comes from beauty in its natural form, and geometric shapes found in nature. Growing up in Northern California, I spent so much time outside; it’s a very calming and inspiring place for me, almost spiritual in a way. The texture and underlying geometric forms in the salmon skin is so beautiful, and I want to create pieces that showcase the material, but still be practical and beautiful in their completed form.
The four styles in the collection, clutch, tote bag, cross body, and backpack, are truly designed for the inspired woman - a woman who is strong, passionate, adventurous, and thoughtful, while living a full life. These styles are designed to use for travel, from cities to exotic adventures. The durability of the salmon skin, paired with the master craftsmanship of the bags, lends themselves to be used for any and every occasion— black tie events to Thailand island hopping. There’s no reason to separate the different adventures of the life you live, so why wouldn’t you carry beautiful pieces that can travel and live with you. That’s my goal for AITCH AITCH.
AGB: Where can people shop for your bags?
HH: Each AITCH AITCH piece is hand made by master artisans working in Europe. I work with the same techniques as storied leather houses, and the craftsmanship is exacting and all hand done. For this reason, all the AITCH AITCH pieces are currently made to order through the website, www.aitch-aitch.com. The website is inquiry based, so the customization of the color, hardware, and style of each piece allows for a very personalized experience. I’m also hosting trunk shows around the country, which can be accessed by joining the AITCH AITCH community via email subscription, or following us on Instagram, @aitch_aitch_.