Charlie Feist: Minimalist Vegan Backpacks


Here I chat with Emma Smith, founder of brand new vegan, minimalist backpack brand Charlie Feist. You can check out the stylish range here.

1.) What is minimalism to you?

To be honest, I don’t like minimalism as it’s quite drab. What I like are “details” either in terms of materials or construction. For example, the Shiro backpack in the opening collection is constructed with neoprene - a material not associated with backpacks. However for this detail to be perceived by the eye of the customer, the backpack should be devoid any other distraction. For me minimalism is an essential empty canvas for my love for details to come through.

2.) Why is Veganism important for fashion as well as food? (your views on veganism, cruelty free fashion etc)

As lovers of animals (especially puppies), we think it was not right to use animal products in our collection. To be honest, in 2016, with the number of animal substitutes that exist, it doesn’t make sense to use animal products.

3.) What is your opinion on unisex fashion? (androgyny, a-gender style, menswear and womenswear shows etc)

In 2016, are more women wearing bomber jackets and joggers? Yes. In 2016, Are men wearing heels? Definitely not. 

Unlike what mainstream fashion editor would have you believe, I don’t think unisex fashion is yet in play. Yes, you could have the odd brand such as J W Anderson or Gucci trying differentiate themselves by being more gender neutral but on the high street, I don’t scale of impact as the editors would want you to believe.

I think womenswear has moved more towards menswear but I don’t see it on the menswear side of things. But what I do see is men have started to become more aware of grooming and nattily dressed but they are still using the traditional products to get there.

4.) What is the Charlie Feist ethos? (your brand values)

To make beautiful products for the masses.

5.) Is vegan leather as good as traditional leather?

I hate to say it but there is no straight answer to that question, but I won’t dodge it.

Both materials have positives and negatives but is the net score of the good and the bad of these materials higher than the other? This completely depends on you. 

Vegan leather is not as sturdy as animal leather; it does not have weight and structure as animal leather so it can’t be used as reinforcement; vegan leather does not have the life of animal leather so it won’t last you a lifetime. 

But as vegan leather won’t lose it’s colour over time; vegan leather is cheaper than animal leather; and if it matters to you (it does to me) vegan leather is safer for the environment and wildlife. 

6. What kind of person is your target customer/who is the Charlie Feist muse? (who inspires you, who do you design for, what kind of lifestyle do customers have)

This is a great question!

We have two types of customers in mind - Hallie who studies literature at the University of Manchester; she is a tattoo-enthusiast; wears Doc Martens; loves her cat, Sally and chooses only vegan food.

Our second muse would be Natasha (not famous yet) who is a computer programmer and skate enthusiast with a penchant for black and white decks that have “Give Me Head” printed across it showing a girl being decapitated by her lover. Natasha loves collecting urban vinyl toys and has started her clothing brand called Vortex on

 (free account)

7. How would you style a Charlie Feist backpack?

This is back to question 1. Our design process always starts from creating distinctive silhouettes with a striking detail that will stop you from scrolling your Instagram feed. 

9. Do you have any grand plans or ambitions for the future of Charlie Feist?

At the moment, we are focusing 100% on making beautiful backpacks!