Rachel’s Journey – The Story of Michaux Club
We all like a nice bag to carry our wares about, women in particular appreciate a good handbag but when you jump on a bike you can suddenly find that very nice bag of yours, a lot of the time, doesn’t have the function to joining you for the journey and the one’s that do aren’t in the same ‘style’ bracket. So what’s a gal to do?
Make her own of course and that’s just what this remarkable lady, Rachel Bonney did.
Rachel passed me on her story of how her creations came to live and just like a journey on the bike – there’s bumps, twists and turns but I’ll let Rachel tell you more…
“Several years ago my boyfriend bought me a bike. A flatpack cruiser from India, assembled upon receipt. I called her ‘Bonney Rider’ (more superhero less 70’s pornstar).
“Unfortunately it wasn’t very ‘Bonnie’; It was so cumbersome and I couldn’t reach the pedals. I cried when I went round the block on it. After several failed attempts Bonney and Bonney parted ways and I bought a more appropriately sized vintage single-speed from Ebay, called ‘Hercules’. My confidence was up and I was on the road loving life.
Then the boyfriend and I broke up. Hercules stayed; my trusty companion.
“Soon I got a new boyfriend, however, he lived up the steepest hill in North London – a single-speed nightmare – so I was back on Ebay trading old Hercules for a geared road bike. Despite collecting her from the seller; covered in rust, flat tyres, no brakes and a dubious brown colour (absent from description) I saw potential and we bonded on the 3 mile walk home together.
“The boyf and I dismantled, polished, replaced, tinkered, and soon she reemerged a glorious Champagne Gold (same colour, less rust). Now the steepest hill in North London was satisfyingly achievable. The journey back down was even more fun. The Champagne Rocket was born.
“The Champagne Rocket still lives, as does the boyfriend, although he lives in a different country now, and I don’t. But that’s ok.”
It all starts with a bike doesn’t it. They have a lot to answer for! Once you get a bike you then want to make every aspect of your bike time your own. Rachel’s given us the background to Michaux Club she continues explaining how her creations came to live…
“Several months into my partnership with The Champagne Rocket the nightmare that is cycling with a handbag became apparent. Impractical over one shoulder, unpredictable across your body, and a basket or pannier would interfere with The Rockets’ sleek lines. And it seemed ridiculous to be shoving my expensive handbag into a sporty rucksack for my commute. Why couldn’t I find a nice bag to cycle with? Why hadn’t somebody thought of this? Hang on a minute.
“I AM someone. And I HAVE thought about it. I better do something.
“I bought a courier bag to discover what I liked in terms of practicality. I wanted a shoulder bag like a handbag, not a rucksack. And so, several broken needles and a few deconstructed 80’s leather jackets later, I was on my way to a new handbag.
“Then, one day just before Christmas I was made redundant (thanks for that) and the company closed its doors to business. I phoned my parents in horror. Dad immediately said, “Well we’ve just received some inheritance money so you can start your bag business”. Err. Well, yes?”
Ace parents there Rach!
“For a few months I tinkered around; refining and experimenting. I like experimenting. Then I joined the School For Creative Startups Business Course for creative entrepreneurs – basically for people who love making things and don’t love spreadsheets.
“I also started a secret blog called Michaux Club to encourage and inspire myself, even though I wasn’t ready to meet the public in my new incarnation yet.”
Bikes and bags are an especially important partnership – after all, they’re the primary way you’re going to carry your gear on your bike, so it needs to be convenient and comfortable.. Just ask Globo Surf who have compiled a useful list of bike packing bags.
So idea mapped out it was time to develop the brand of the company that will sell these new cycling ready fashionable handbags…
“‘If you’re doing this properly, you need sales before Christmas’, asserted the parents in their most encouraging way.
“I reluctantly handed my notice in at my lovely house-share with friends, in order to move back home with the parents, save money, make a plan, get focused.
“With the car packed full of possessions and the enginge running – by the way this is something you really DON’T WANT TO BE DOING at the age of 30: Single, broke, no job, no home, no money, I’d also lost my phone too on a drunken night out the week before while feeling sorry for myself. So I basically didn’t really exist at that moment in time. (Lucky I’m an optimistic person.)
“Engine running, waving goodbye to the house, my replacement phone buzzed. It’s the ex-boyfriend (Bonney Rider era), what does he want? “Congratulations on the Guardian article! Amazing!”. What?! After a phone call saying, “What?!”, I was informed that somehow my bags (via secret blog) had been picked up and included in the Guardian Online’s ‘What to buy for Christmas list’. Holy shite!
“Engine off, laptop unpacked from boot, coat still on, hands shaking, I sat back down at the kitchen table. Sure enough my inbox was full of customer enquiries (customers! I had customers!!) and my crotch was on the Guardian Online (clothed I might add – see pic). What do I do now?! I don’t have bags to sell.
“Somewhere in a folder, somewhere in a box, somewhere in the car, was a list of London factories, so after locating the list, calling everyone and being laughed off the phone (you want us to make bags 3 weeks before Christmas?!) finally the last one agreed to see me. Ironically it was 10 minutes down the road from the house I’d just MOVE OUT OF. So I scooted down in the car still full of all my possessions, coat still on, hands still shaking, and begged for help. The desperate look in my eyes was enough to persuade them. “Come back on Monday with everything cut out. We’ll make as many as we can. You have 5 days”. Right.
“So having slept on the sofa at the house I’d just moved out of, and still with the car outside full of my possessions, I rocked up at 8.00am at the workshop ready for action.
The next week was spent manically making as many bags as we could, while I continued to sleep on the sofa in the same clothes with the car still parked outside with all my possessions in. Eventually Mum came up and moved the car home and unpacked for me. I love my mum.
“Not only had I stumbled across a ‘bespoke bag makers’, but their ethos was helping graduates learn the trade and establish themselves in industry. I couldn’t have asked for a better partnership. So we made the bags, we drank whisky while we worked late, and we managed to dispatch all the bags on the last day of Christmas post.
“A year on from the Guardian Online baptism, I’m back in London with Michaux Club as a registered company, a developing product range, several stockists and am establishing a brand I am proud of. And the Champagne Rocket is still going strong strong.
“In the words of Mickey Hart – the Grateful Dead Drummer:
Adventures don’t begin until you get into the forest. That first step is an act of faith.”
Michaux Club is the epitome of mixing stylish and fashionable goods with all the function needed for your time on and off bike. It’s also a fast paced story that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. How we react to a situation defines how are life turns out and how Rachel reacting to the situations that lead to her making her own bag was an inspiring example of creating something from nothing and following your dreams and passions. And she’s done it. Her bags are proving extremely popular and are sure to keep gaining popularity as the Michaux Club brand becomes more well known and her product line increases.
I’m excited to see what the future has in store for Rachel and Michaux Club and it’s fantastic what she’s achieved and also gives me great heart and encouragement for my own endeavours in the future.
Nicely done Rach.