Wild at heart: we find out why homeware brand Elizabeth Scarlett has put wildlife conservation at its heart

From eco-friendly packaging to 'pouch for purpose', Elizabeth Scarlett's accessories are designed with the planet in mind

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Luxury accessories and homeware brand Elizabeth Scarlett has put wildlife conservation at the heart of its business ethos. Guided by the belief that “purpose is as important as profit”, founder Elizabeth Petrides has pledged to support charities that protect the natural world – a cause that resonate strongly with her community of like-minded customers.

Following the success of the brand’s Watamu Turtle pouch, sold in support of Kenya’s Local Ocean Conservation, Elizabeth Scarlett recently launched its ‘Pouch for Purpose’ velvet clutch to raise money for the David Sheldrick Trust. The sale of every hand-illustrated embroidered pouch, featuring a mother elephant leading her calf, will provide two bottles of specialist milk to feed a rescued orphan elephant at the Trust’s world-famous Kenyan nursery. 

Petrides, 31, tells Tempus she aims to initially raise £12,500 – enough to feed 10 orphaned elephants for just over one month, as they require 16 bottles each a day – with the aim of increasing the amount raised over the next year to feed a total of 30 elephants. 

“The goal we have is to find ways to give back to animals and nature because they inspire me so much,” says Petrides, whose designs feature zebras, giraffes, flamingos, palm trees and jungle leaves and are stocked in stores like John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason. “We make a conscious effort to do our bit.”

How did your first conservation partnership to protect endangered turtles come about?
Kelly Eastwood was one of the first bloggers I reached out to her because I admired her work with various conservation causes. She told me about Local Ocean Conservation in Kenya, which protects sea turtles and other species along the Swahili coastline. It was a real passion of mine to work within the conservation realm and this was exactly where I wanted to go with the business. Kelly suggested doing a Watamu turtle design on my pouches and it was a huge success. We relaunched it four times over two years, raising £30,000, with 100% of profits going to the charity. I planned my honeymoon around visiting the trust in Kenya and even got the chance to release one of the turtles.

Your elephant ‘Pouch for Purpose’ collaboration follows in the same vein?
Absolutely. The elephant has always been my favourite animal and I’ve wanted to work with the David Sheldrick Trust for a long time. It took two years to get the concept right and bring it to life in the way that it deserves. The design of a mother leading her calf is inspired by the trust’s work. The keepers take on the role of the mother and hand-feed the orphans until they can reclaim their place in the wild. They then come back to visit with their own calves! >>

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Do you think consumers are driving brands to behave more ethically?
Businesses are definitely being held to account now. If companies are going to talk about what they do, they need to show that their values are genuine, especially with all the greenwashing out there. If people don’t think you’re authentic, they will let you know. We bring our customers on the journey with us. We sent out a survey asking which endangered animal they wanted us to support and they all came back with the elephant. As far as my beliefs are concerned, purpose is becoming just as important as profit.

What other steps have you taken to make Elizabeth Scarlett a sustainable brand?
We don’t have any plastic packaging and every pouch comes in a reusable liner bag. We’ve had the biggest overhaul with our bedding collection, which used to come wrapped in plastic but is now packaged in organza bags with a paper label. Our cushions are made from recycled polyester and all our products are designed to stand the test of time. We are cautious to avoid waste and overstock, so, usually, once something is sold out, it’s gone.

How did you start out?
I started with a range of cushions and literally filled a pink suitcase with samples and went around shops, saying ‘Hello, I’m Elizabeth’, before realising the actual route was to do trade shows. I was lucky from the get-go with orders from Fenwick, Graham & Green and other small boutiques. I’ve always been in a bit of a rush and envisaged being the next Cath Kidson or Emma Bridgewater!

What new products are in the pipeline?
We’re launching the British bee collection, which is a golden bee on a dusky pink and black velvet base. The bee is another ecological powerhouse and a keystone species and we’re brainstorming ideas for charity collaborations. The constellation collection is also coming back for Christmas with zodiac symbols and monogramming.