Catherine Ellis: Bags of Style


Catherine Ellis turned her frustrations at a lack of stylish bags for cyclists into a dream business. Here’s how…

Five years ago, Catherine Ellis left her job as director and producer at ITV to launch Hill & Ellis, with a mission to create bespoke leather panniers for the ‘discerning’ cyclist.

“I remember being in a meeting with Ant and Dec and trying to hide my cycling bag,” says Catherine. “I decided I didn’t want to have to hide my bag from them – or anyone else – anymore! 

“Back then, the only options available seemed to be black nylon or PVC bags that were uncomfortable to carry and ugly,” she says. “There was definitely a space in the market for a bag that works well, looks good and considers the needs of commuting cyclists.”

Using £4,000 of savings, Catherine bought a plane ticket to India to visit a manufacturer and her first prototype bag was born. 

After five months of riding around and testing it, Catherine was convinced she was on to something. 

“Other cyclists kept stopping me in the street and asking where my bag was from, which was a fantastic sign and a brilliant motivator,” she says.

Her hunch was right, with Grazia magazine, Esquire, Time Out and Vogue all singing the praises of her iconic bags.

Catherine’s bags don’t just look good, though. In addition to their timeless style, they feature a host of practical details that only a keen cyclist could have come up with – reversible reflective tabs for visibility, waterproof jackets, hidden patented pannier clips...

So, what’s next for Catherine? The big story is a new canvas collection that will feature a variety of patterns and be environmentally friendly. 

To make this happen, Catherine is looking for a way to waterproof the canvas without using chemicals that are harmful to the environment. 

“I’ve been speaking to Greenpeace because a lot of waterproofing is bad for the planet and bad for the people that do it,” she says. 

Watch this space for news on how she cracks it.

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