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Welcome to My Design Alley. A design blog celebrating design in many forms - from interior spaces to new products, stores and interviews with designers both local and from around the world.

A Moment With | Liam Bowden

A Moment With | Liam Bowden

When we first stumbled upon the brand Deadly Ponies some years ago, we were intrigued… what was this brand with the quirky name and the incredible handcrafted handbags? And more importantly… who was behind it all? Today (with much excitement!) we profile Liam Bowden, the man behind the accessories brand. Designed and made in his home town New Zealand, Deadly Ponies is synonymous with design by innovation, inspired by the materials which the pieces are made from. Today the brand launched their latest collection, Transparent Resort ‘19, with products which appeal to people who appreciate design, craft, functionality and most importantly, playfulness. We catch up with Liam to find out how the name Deadly Ponies really came about, the design process to making one of his incredible handbags and how design has always been a big part of his life.

 The  Deadly Ponies  Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces. Photo - Karen Ishiguro.

The Deadly Ponies Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces. Photo - Karen Ishiguro.

Hi Liam, can you tell us a little about the journey to where you are today My journey started at University studying graphic design. I chose an elective on screen printing, experimenting with drawings and printing on leather to create objects. Many people asked to buy them, so I sold them at markets, which progressed to stores. Suddenly a sales agent contacted me to sell it as a range asking for a brand name and it just snowballed from there.

Has design always been a big part of your life? I would say throughout my entire life I have been attracted to design. I studied graphic design as I had an interest in visual arts and sculpture, which has lead me down this pathway of creating bags and sculptural pieces, and applying 3D prints or experimenting with colours.  

 Working with different colours and materials is a big part of the  Deadly Ponies  collections.

Working with different colours and materials is a big part of the Deadly Ponies collections.

When was the idea first conceived to establish Deadly Ponies – was there a specific moment when you had a realisation of the brand and what you wanted to achieve? I was selling early products at a market level and had stickers with the words Deadly Ponies on them, not really thinking too much about it. I wrote prices for the product on the back, however, people didn’t focus on the prices but were more interested in ‘What was Deadly Ponies?’ – in that moment Deadly Ponies became a brand. While Deadly Ponies was growing organically, I was doing a lot of freelance graphic design work and trying to establish a career in the industry as a graphic designer.

“My turning point was realising I could make Deadly Ponies into a business instead of working for someone else. So I began creating long term goals about six years ago, and we’ve seen goals be achieved, major growth and new goals be formed.” 
 Liam Bowden at work in the  Deadly Ponies  studio. Photo - Karen Ishiguro. Photo - Karen Ishiguro.

Liam Bowden at work in the Deadly Ponies studio. Photo - Karen Ishiguro. Photo - Karen Ishiguro.

How did the name Deadly Ponies come about? Deadly Ponies actually originated from a friend at University. I wore these slippers which people thought were made of pony hair, as they had long hair, (they were really made from a goat hide) and I would play along with it and so my nickname became Deadly Ponies, which organically flowed into the brand name.

When you first started designing bags for Deadly Ponies, was there a distinct gap in the market? When I started making things, it was very much as a hobby, on the weekends and in my free time. It was just about making sculptural objects using different materials like resin to felt to leather. It operated that way for many years until we officially created a collection and a range to sell to wholesalers. 

“We came around at a unique point in time when people were appreciating locally made products revolting against the mega brands and looking for something more niche and interesting.”
 The  Deadly Ponies  Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces.

The Deadly Ponies Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces.

Where do you go for inspiration - is there ever any shortage? Inspiration comes from everywhere. A lot comes from travel, mainly as that is the only time I can stop and have a breather. However, it could be a fabric that I see someone in front of me wearing, a technique we want to try, or an objects like a shoe or chair that is made out of leather that could translate to accessories.

“There is no shortage of inspiration, there are normally too many and it needs to be simplified or edited. The shortage is time and being able to explore.”

Tell us a little about the design process when designing one of your handbags – how does the process start? The design process usually starts with a combination of ideas, textures and fabrics we have collated to use in a new collection. From there we would sketch designs and shapes for a day or two. Once we have some shapes, we go straight to toiling in leather, denim or canvas to get sizing and proportions correct, and then we refine.

Verne-PVC-Clear-Purple-Poucher-F.jpg

What do you love most about what you do? The thing I love the most, is the variety of what I do. With that comes highs and lows of wearing multiple hats everyday, but the passion overrides any stress. 

How do you challenge yourself? I haven’t come from a fashion background so through each stage of the company’s journey there has been many challenges and learnings, such as how a website is built, screen printing and embroidery, to how leather is tanned. I’ve challenged myself by using different techniques, dedicating time to really understand them and learn how they operate.   

 The  Deadly Ponies  Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces.

The Deadly Ponies Transparent Resort ‘19 collection features beautifully crafted, playful pieces.

How would you best describe your collections at Deadly Ponies? I would describe our collections as ever-evolving. We constantly push for refinement and design for innovation with a twist. Most collections are inspired by a fabrication element or are the feature of the collection. Our upcoming collection Resort ’19 explores different textures and shapes. The highlighted material PVC, presents a capsule of products as a means of a second skin over signature pieces, protecting and revering the styles within. We want our products to appeal to people who appreciate design, craft, functionality and playfulness. With the wide range of products we offer, our customers range from 14 to 80!

“Our target market is people looking for products that have depth or a story, rather than something to just hold.”
 Backstage at the  Deadly Ponies  MBFWA presentation. Photo - Lucas Dawson.

Backstage at the Deadly Ponies MBFWA presentation. Photo - Lucas Dawson.

What’s in store for Deadly Ponies in 2019? We have designed our Fall, Winter and Spring collections for 2019 already! In terms of other projects, we are in the middle of working on an exciting collaboration, which will launch at the end of 2020. We’re working on in-store concepts and expanding our retail presence, starting with David Jones and key retailers around the world, for which we’re working with a number of amazing creators and artists from Japan, Australia and New Zealand. So a lot of exciting plans for 2019!


FULL STOP


I usually wake up at: 7am.

My perfect day would involve: Peanut butter, chocolate, sun, sleep and water.

I am inspired by: Craft.

Best advice I’ve ever received: If you’re going forward, don’t look back.

I couldn’t live without: My partner Steve.

My favourite daily ritual: Exercise.

I recently discovered: Candy Mania!

On my wish-list: A Dumbo print shirt from Loewe Spring Summer ’19 collaboration with Disney.

I’m currently reading: The Kremlin’s Candidate: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy) by Jason Mathews

And listening to: Electricity by Silk City & Dua Lipa.

My guilty pleasure: Dynasty on Netflix.

My mantra is: Always have fun!


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