Hills & West
Posted on 07 February 2018
If you have visited our South Melbourne store you would remember seeing some beautiful leather handbags by designer Aisha Hillary under her own label Hills & West. Every second person who walks into the shop picks one up to admire it and I can't blame them! They're the kind of bags you envisage throwing your life into while still looking chic as heck because they were designed so beautifully with function as well as form in mind. (Have a squiz at her Instagram here for style inspo!) They're also locally and ethically produced of course, by a couple in Sydney who have been making bags and accessories for over 30 years.
I really enjoy hearing the stories behind labels because there's a great mix of upbringing, career choices and leaps of all kinds that make up the bigger picture and Aisha's is one such story. It also reminds me that our 'career' is rarely a straight-forward road, and more often than not is more enjoyable when we stray from conformity and explore the less conventional options that kindle that little fire inside us and bring us ultimate joy. Maybe after meeting Aisha you'll feel inspired to try something different every now and then!
On upbringing - I was born in Wahroonga from two Dutch parents who came to Australia on their honeymoon. My first language was Dutch until I went to kindergarten when my parents were called in because I was speaking Dutch to the teacher and students and was getting frustrated that no one could understand me! I spent a lot of my childhood traveling around the world with my dad’s book publishing business, spending many months in Asia, Europe and America. My love for travel led me to London for seven years in my twenties and throughout Asia and Europe again in my thirties while I was dreaming of setting up Hills & West.
On life - Each year I try and learn a new skill to keep my mind ticking and thinking differently. I have learnt to DJ, meditate, dragon boat race, do vipassana and bikram, salsa dance, speak French (well, I tried), and scuba dive to name a few! In 2014, I went to Milan and learnt how to make handbags.
On career - I studied business, marketing, advertising and PR and have been working in this space for almost 15 years. I have always helped businesses build their brand story, connect with their customers and look at new ways of doing things. After 5 years as a global comms director I decided it was time to do it for myself. With a love of creating things, working with talented and inspiring people and a love for accessories of course, once I did my course in Milan I decided I was finally brave enough to go out on my own. Now, 2 years later I have Hills & West and Digital & Agile, my consulting business that I would not change for the world.
On Hills & West - After traveling for 10 years in global comms roles, I was always looking for the perfect collection of bags to cross time zones, weather and be versatile enough to wear across outfits. It needed to be affordable and durable, fit half my life in it yet look stylish as I traveled from the plane to the boardroom. I saw a gap in the market so I decided to tackle this challenge myself. From the beginning my mission was simple - create exceptional pieces locally, do what I love and make people happy along the way! I also wanted to try and give something back and Hills & West is a way I could do that through different collaborations and supporting some very humbling causes.
On changing the world -[We need] more kindness. If we could all buy less (be more considered in our purchases) and give more then it would be a start. I try and smile and say good morning to people when I am walking the dog or going to a meeting in the morning. I know it is not much and I don’t always get smiles back but when I do I can see a bit of a bounce popping into people’s steps. Small I know but every little bit helps!
Selected Hills & West bags are available in Theo the Label's South Melbourne shop for an extremely limited time! Come by to ooh and ah in person and browse our wider range of ethically produced goodies perfect for those seeking a conscious lifestyle.