Founder Olivier Birault tells Debonair about their wallets, bags, bracelets and accessories
We catch up with the team behind the brand known for its industry-defining interchangeable luxury leather belts
Eduan R. Maggo
Like sorrow and joy, belts transcend the seasons. But unlike sorrow and joy, and just about every other complex emotional network of neurons that fire and snap away in our ever-complex cortexes, you can always rely on a good belt to be there when you most need it. To hold up your pants. Offer your waistline some gravitas. And, of course, coordinate with your other leathers.
While Eliot Rhodes reference trends, the Covent Garden, London-grown brand’s inspiration stems from the transcendental world of design. They are constantly on the look out for new ways to offer stylish, practical and individual belt straps and buckles.
In its 14-year history of belting up, they have constantly broken new ground in design. And their belief that innovation elevates belts from functional commodity to art form, is the buckle that binds the brand’s philosophy.
And most recently, with an eye on the athleisure trend they launched a collection of performance straps which were made using technical fabrics such as neoprene paired with rubber-coated buckles.
Here, we catch up with the beautiful little belters behind the leathers available on DebonairOnline.com
Where does the name come from? Justin Elliot Rhodes created the eponymously brand 14 years ago when he opened the label’s first store in Covent Garden. We are specialists in our field and the only dedicated belt brand to have boutiques, international franchises and an ecommerce site. The brand continues to be independently owner-managed by three best friends.
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic? The Elliot Rhodes aesthetic is very personal; the very nature of the brand’s interchangeable belt and buckle concept is that it encourages customers to create their own individual belt. We simply ensure that every one of our hand-finished straps or buckles is perfectly designed to the highest quality in a dizzying array of colours and styles. Because our straps and buckles can be mixed and matched, it also means that we can work with our wholesale customers to refine a selection that works for their stores, customers and market
What goes into creating the perfect belt? Now that we are into our 14th year, not only do we have the knowledge and expertise to know what our customers want but also feel we have gained sufficient confidence to really play around with designs and we are without question the market leader for truly one-off belt straps and buckles that are style statements in their own right.
We continue with our aim of giving this very undervalued accessory a true purpose by encouraging experimentation with colour and texture, so every season sees perennial style staples combined with on-trend and exciting new designs. Each of our straps is designed in-house and then hand-finished in our atelier in Spain. All of our leathers are either Italian or Spanish and we work closely with the factory to make sure that all of the designs are manufactured to the highest possible standard.
What informs your choice of texture, material, print, colour etc? We have an excellent manufacturing facility, run by a very creative team who share our forward-thinking approach to belt design. This means that we can really play around with colour, texture and finish. Pushing boundaries and experimenting is key; we are not afraid to work with experimental materials and techniques as this is how we progress. We recently started using a hand-painting technique on some of our exotic skins made of saltwater crocodile and caiman flank. Our designs are our own and while we respect trend forecasting, we are masters in our field and our styles are not trend-dominated.
Do you have a flagship product, and what makes it stand out? Our “swirl” buckle is our signature buckle; it works with literally any strap style, so is a fantastic choice to add a point of difference to a simple belt strap.
What do you think will be the next big revolution in your segment? We constantly explore new materials and have focused a lot of our recent research on combining leathers with contrasting textures, as well as looking at sustainable and hi-tech materials. For buckles our work on new materials such as carbon fibre and Damascus steel really inspires us, as does the collaborative work we do with artists and sculptors who bring new creative techniques to bear. So long as we are constantly challenging the norms we know we are heading in the right direction!
What about the Middle East market appeals to you? From the very outset we’ve been fortunate enough to have acquired a loyal following of customers from this region. This market is so diverse yet one defining feature is that the Middle Eastern customer is consistently stylish and likes to express their own individual style and looks to premium and trusted brands for exciting accessories and clothing. We very much appreciate their energy and enthusiasm and are delighted when they choose some of our more exciting and standout buckle and strap styles.
How has the rise of ecommerce influenced your company and strategy? The internet is now challenging the high street as consumers look for ease and speed when shopping. Because of the nature of what we do, we had to think of the best way to have an online presence while remaining respectful to our ethos and our products. We re-launched our ecommerce site in 2014 and have replicated as best as possible the Elliot Rhodes in-store experience on a virtual platform.
We offer both pre-selected combinations and the interchangeable concept to allow online shoppers to create their perfect combination, and we guide them through the measuring process so that we can custom-size the straps from our stores before shipping.