The Faldan bag is the world’s first ethical luxury, fully-foldable bag. Smart, geometric markings in the fabric create a unique pattern and, crucially, allow the bag to fold down seamlessly into an iPhone-sized purse. Launched in 2019, Faldan believes in a better world through smart design.
Laura Hanning Scarborough graduated with a Masters from the University of Cambridge and spent almost a decade working in environmental policy and UN climate negotiations. She served as the vice chair of the UN Adaptation Fund, overseeing efforts to address climate change in developing countries. Realizing that there was a gap in the market for a product that actively helped to reduce our wasteful habits, but that was still a desirable luxury product, Hanning took an accessories design course at London College of Fashion and spent months folding origami shapes and calculating the best size and volume to make the Faldan bag as useful and purposeful as possible.
The final Faldan bag was created after consultations with mathematicians, engineers and craftsmen to ensure the finest attention to detail, precision and function. Faldan was developed in London and Wiltshire, but looked to Florence to find the skilled craftsmanship needed to bring the pioneering design to life. Faldan’s partners in Tuscany place social responsibility at the heart of their production values, blending traditional artisanal practices with innovative technologies to create new future-proof techniques.
All materials used were selected for their sustainability, lightness and durability. Faldan uses ethical, responsibly-sourced leather, recycled nylon made from plastic bottles and old fishing nets and packaging made from recycled coffee cups.
Up to 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, almost 650 bags for every person on the planet. Based on the average global consumption per person over five years, one Faldan bag replaces 3250 plastic bags (and is infinitely more beautiful).
I met Laura during February’s London Fashion Week, while she was exhibiting at the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion Exhibition, a platform designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change.
“I wasn’t looking to create yet another new bag brand in the luxury market, I was looking to find a solution to a challenge – we want people to buy better and yes, buy less, but we know we still desire beautiful things. When something is carefully and thoughtfully designed, yet still looks good, we’re all inclined to use it more. This bag is the result of long periods of trial and error, not just for the design itself but then in how to bring it to life in the most mindful and sustainable way possible. Ultimately it needs to be durable and timeless: I want it to be the bag you have with you at all times, to replace the purchase of cheap totes or plastic carrier bags,” Laura told me.
Tanja Beljanski: As a former UN Climate Negotiator, what made you decide to start FALDAN brand?
Laura Hanning Scarborough: I worked in UN climate change framework for many years, but politics and governance is a strange place to be if you want to make a change. While in the end I was elected as the vice chair of UN Adaptation Fund, where we were giving millions of dollars to the developing countries to build their resilience against sea rises and droughts, I was feeling more and more detached from the real action. The higher in the office you go, the less in touch you are with people you suppose to make a difference to. And so I decided to do something where I could have a real impact for the women around me. Multitasking women, who are mothers, partners, achievers, dreamers. Who need one bag - a partner in crime in otherwise hectic life. That would be ethical, luxury, light and functional. I knew that conscious design can make a difference. And so it all began.
TB: What does “Faldan” stand for?
LHS: In old Saxon faldan means to fold.
TB: How long did it take you to develop the perfect product?
LHS: The journey of Faldan development was not simple. First, I asked my friend who won a Dior prize for accessories to make me a foldable bag and she just couldn’t figure it out. Then I went to meet some origami experts in Tokyo, and that was not very enlightening, so I took a design course at the London College of Fashion, apprenticed with London leather craftsmen. I worked out the optimal mathematical calculations to make the bag collapse without any magnets, something that everyone told me is impossible. But after years of trials and errors, I developed a pattern that works and now we are registered for pattens because how innovative it is.
TB: How much mathematics you needed to make it perfect?
LHS: I joke that everything has already been invented before, but not everything has been applied to fashion or patented. Greek thinkers Pythagoras and Euclid postulated about relationship between geometric shapes over 2000 years ago. The bag is made from a rather simple combination 30 triangles and 32 squares, but it is the precisely calculated gaps between them which makes the magic happen and allow a perfect foldability. And as such it takes twice as long to make a Faldan bag than any other luxury bag and requires utmost craftsmanship.
TB: What are some of the traditional techniques in your design?
LHS: The bags are cut and made by artisans in one of the most renown Italian leather factories, which services only few luxury brands. The combination of precisely cut triangles and squares have to be very carefully done.
TB: Tell us about ethical materials used for the bag.
LHS: We use ethical, responsibly-sourced or recycled materials wherever possible. We're not perfect, but we're always striving to be better. We have a transparent production promise to only use leather that is a by-product of the meat industry, thus having a smaller environmental footprint than producing new fabrics. All Faldan leather is sourced from goldrated tanneries that are leading the way in reducing the environmental impact of leather production. Faldan's new recycled nylon bag is vegan-friendly and was crafted with the same attention to detail, material quality and production values as the leather version. The packaging is made from recycled coffee cups.
TB: What was the hardest thing about founding your brand?
LHS: Assembling the team. Knowing who can or can’t capture your vision. Taste and style is such a personal thing that is hard to communicate and thus only through working together you are learning whether we can read each other’s mind.
TB: How much did it help to exhibit at the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion Exhibition during London Fashion Week?
LHS: Creating Red Room of Recycled Nature was an amazing opportunity for us to build an art installation and showcase how a product lives in its context and to communicate our vision.
Every single part of Faldan bag and packaging had a life before: recycled nylon used for lining of the bag was fishnet in its previous form, packaging boxes - coffee cups. We showed those boxes as birds and bags as live beings as if suspending materials in a phase of reincarnation. Once the bags are used, they hopefully will be recycled and serve a different purpose in the their next life.
We believe that we can create luxury with minimal cost to the environment. We are planning to show the Red Room now in other places, potentially at the Paris Fashion week in Autumn.
TB: What is the feedback from your customers?
LHS: We are so blessed as our clients are also our ambassadors. From photographer Candice Lake to actress Joana Lumley. We get pictures send from all over, where one client has even taken her Faldan snorkeling to South Africa. Everyone finds their use for Faldan. Some use it as a handbag, others as a shopping bag or to carry papers, gym shoes.
TB: How do you develop brand communication?
LHS: We are building community of conscious multitaskers. Women who are dreamers and achievers, travelers and runners, who are glamorous mothers but also wives and sisters. They are interested in fashion, design, art, architecture. Multitaskers who are so busy and do not always have time to search and read about things they love. So we do the work providing inspiration, ideas, images and the bag - they do ethical luxury life.
TB: Take us through your #FaldanWomen campaign.
LHS: The new #FaldanWomen campaign is a celebration of how one woman contains many identities. The brand chose nine women who embodied this idea – some of whom inspired the Faldan bag in the first place.
As women we live these various contradictions every day, trying to do and be it all. Sometimes we juggle successfully, and sometimes not so much. We want to be able to be fabulous but also be taken seriously, to be sexy and smart, a dreamer but also a doer. The campaign was shot by photographer and style editor Candice Lake, who also stars in the campaign. The line-up continues with me - Laura Hanning, strategist Sindy Liu, artist Indre Serpytyte, opera director and playwright Dalia Ibelhauptaite, founder of fashion rental service “By Rotation”, Eshita Kabra, award-winning brand consultant Kubi Springer, city lawyer Asta Evans and skin guru Renée Lapino.
TB: Where can we buy Faldan bag?
LHS: You can order it online from our website or Instagram.
TB: What do you think is the most important change that needs to happen in the fashion industry now?
LHS: We live in a throwaway culture. There is so much stuff. One change we need to make is create a filter and allow only great design to reach the market. Things need to deserve their existence just like people. They need to have purpose and add value to our lives without a damaging cost to the world. Only by applying that filter, we will create less but better. And fashion will find it’s conscious.