Tea & Tequila was founded by two university friends, Millie Wilson and Sarah Goodwin in early 2015. Jointly run between London and Mexico City, Tea & Tequila produce a custom range of stylish bags, designed in-house, and made exclusively with artisans in Mexico. Showcasing the bright colours and styles found in the tropical country of Mexico, each design blends the founders’ inspiration and love for traditional Mexican handicrafts with their contemporary London style. The LuxPad caught up with Millie and Sarah to talk about their business journey so far and the secret to a work/life balance…
What first gave you the idea for Tea & Tequila?
Millie: The initial idea of Tea & Tequila was actually a trading company where we sort to trade beautiful Mexican products and designs for our favourite quintessentially British equivalents between Mexico and the U.K: this idea first came to Sarah when she moved out to live in Mexico. She was surrounded by wonderfully unique Mexican pieces which she knew would be adored in the U.K.
After a year of travelling, sourcing and trading together we began working very closely with our artisans. As our relationships with them developed, we began designing new styles while incorporating their indigenous craft, piecing together different artisanal skills to create accessories we wanted to wear and use ourselves at home. At this point we began to turn Tea & Tequila into a brand for our collection of handmade accessory designs.
Sarah: Tea & Tequila represents the mix of the tea (UK) and the tequila (Mexico) that are the foundations for our brand.
What is the brand’s ethos?
Millie: We care about providing a thoughtful product, one which has been developed carefully at every step of its creation; from our design sketches, to the embroidery of each glass-bead & sequin, to the colourful leathers chosen for each design, and finally our favourite touch – the colourful aztec cotton linings we source from Oaxaca. We want to create our designs in a conscious way, we work closely and directly with our artisans and we are proud to shed light on their remarkable craft and skills. Our mission is to showcase indigenous Mexican craft through our modernised interpretations to bring a new audience to it. We hope to inspire people to love and support Mexico in the way we fell for it having discovered its sublime culture, art and craft.
Can you tell us about the creative process from an initial design to the finished product?
Sarah: So our creative process begins with Millie and I sharing our ideas together, everything has a relevance to Mexico as it is where we make everything and where all of our inspiration comes from. Our ideas then go down on paper and I then share them with our artisans to begin the back and forth over the beading designs! We then get hunting materials in Mexico and finally piece together our products in Leon, Guanajuato where we have a skilled team at our workshop making the final bags as Leon is the leather capital of Mexico where we source all our bag exteriors.
Many of Tea & Tequila’s collections support local Mexican charities; can you tell us more about this?
Millie: We have supported Mexican Charities through website sales and sales events to date. However we are very excited about our first limited edition bag (coming soon) which we will be giving 50% of proceeds directly to a charity supporting local artisan craft in Guanajuato, Mexico (the State where our bags are created). We are also designing a collection of handmade accessories with female artisans in Oaxaca which will be offered as an add-on to our bags. We will give 70% of the proceeds directly to our artisan once it is sold – this will be in addition to our advanced payment for labour and materials.
Sarah: We recently supported Topos Mexico after the earthquake in Mexico City in September and Fundación Gilberto through a Bazaar last month which is focused on rebuilding Oaxaca after the other terrible earthquake in September.
How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
Millie: We make sure to take a moment in the evenings to shut off from our computers and phones and enjoy time with our friends and family. Mentally shutting off from work really helps to keep our desk time productive and innovative – like when you take a break and come back to a puzzle and pieces you hadn’t noticed before fit together.
Sarah: As well as business partners we are also best friends- so we feel very lucky to work on this project together and have these life experiences to share! We tend to remain very focused during the week on work and make sure to wind down on the weekends with catch up calls if we are in Mexico and London that are not work related. If we are in the same place we’ll take trips and have fun as we would were we not business partners, I think this is hugely important and has enabled us to thrive in both work and personal endeavours!
Who or what inspires you?
Millie: Women turning their creativity and innovative thoughts into businesses to financially support themselves, my favourite example of this is Sharmadean Reid, Founder of WAH Nails and Future Girl Corp (inspiring the future of female CEOs). We are also inspired by brands which focus on the importance of the materials and production of their pieces such as Reformation whose mission is to make fashion sustainable.
What have you learned since the business was started? Given the chance is there anything you’d do differently?
Sarah: We’ve learnt a lot in the last couple of years. Pretty much everything to do with running a business, starting a brand and creating a product from scratch we learnt on the job. Neither of us had experience in this sector beforehand and we have had to support each other and take advice along the way but the most amazing thing has been gathering the skills ourselves which means they really stay with us!
We would probably have been more focused from day one had we known more, we have had a growth period over the last couple of years and changed the course of our business model slightly by focusing our energies now to being designers and brand owners, however at the same time it’s all been a learning curve that has made us what we are now!
How would you spend your perfect day off?
Millie: I love walking so my perfect day would be spent exploring London on foot. First off, a stroll up Regent’s Canal and up through London Fields to E5 Bakery for a delicious brunch. Then I would drop into my favourite shop Somewhere in Hackney (heaven for vintage clothing lovers) or I might go check out an exhibition if something catches my eye. And then an evening walk to a cute little wine bar or cosy pub and dinner at an exciting new spot. And a little live music at the Jazz Cafe to finish it off.
Sarah: I would spend it with friends perhaps visiting one of my favourite spots in Mexico and sampling some delicious food with an amazing view! These would include Holbox Island, Tulum and Oaxaca. I would get a massage to unwind and finish the day watching the sunset with a spicy margarita in hand!
What are your favourite spots in both London and Mexico City?
Millie: My favourite spots in London are: 119 Bakery for the best breakfast, P Franco – a wine bar which turns into a restaurant a few nights a week, Little Venice & all of regents canal for an interesting walk, and Notting Hill for a cosy pub.
Sarah: My favourite spots in Mexico City are: Contramar for a long seafood lunch, Sushi Washi for an incredibly authentic japanese sushi bar and El Califa for a really juicy traditional taco with lots of salsa. I also love markets such as San Angel on a Saturday. My favourite areas for a wander and to visit some bars would be La Roma or La Juarez where there is an amazing speakeasy behind a taco stand called Hanky Panky!
What does the future hold for Tea & Tequila?
Sarah: Next year we will be launching some new styles and adding to our collection which we can’t wait to share. We’re excited to be shooting this in December in Mexico City. We hope to expand our client base worldwide and share the love we have for Mexico and its crafts through our brand!