Gigi and Cavanagh Foyle are two ladies on a mission. A mission of the neon kind. Beginning their careers in health research and aviation law respectively, the two sisters’ current day job is an admirable self-made dream that sees them bring a shining light to the lives of customers the world over.
Stepping away from their originally ‘conventional’ routes and after an extensive period of prototyping and experimenting with their passion, the Irish duo set up their London based company, bag&bones, under which they create kick-ass neon signage at a fraction of the cost of most such products on the market. With an emphasis on design and arresting aesthetics, the girls have broken into a niche market with their clever method of flexible, coloured neon tubing that uses LED lighting as a means of creation. The pieces are super lightweight, energy efficient and safe unlike many other brands out there that are the furthest things from eco-friendly.
Whimsical writings, expressive slogans and conversational visuals optimise and typify the girls optical dream. Adding a touch of that slick AF vibe to any wall, bag&bones brings to life, or perhaps more aptly put, to light, simple designs that lend themselves to the lives and homes of bag&bones fans around the world and are certainly proving popular with the trendy set. Here HSF spoke with funder Gigi Foyle about how the brand came to be and of it's continued growth, less than a year down the road.
Beginning your careers far away from the bright lights that now light up your day to day adventures with bag&bones yours’ is an inspirational tale and one that I’m sure millions secretly wish they had the audacity to execute; but beyond the dazzle, what brought about the transition from careers in science and aviation law to your current escapades with neon lights?
I knew very early on in my life that I wanted to do something creative. At school, I was one of those compulsive doodlers sitting at the back of the classroom, lost in a world of imagination. Sketching away in my notepad was so much more appealing to me than learning about Pythagoras theory! And, I’ve always loved neon. For as long as I can remember the seductive glow of neon has lured me in. It just has such a positive effect on my mood – I have bag&bones neon on all over my house and whenever I turn it on my mood is instantly uplifted. The seed for bag&bones was first planted when I spotted a gap in the market for a new type of neon art that was more environmentally sustainable, and just as beautiful as traditional glass neon. So, after two years of meticulous research and preparation, we took a leap of faith in July 2016 and launched. It has been a rollercoaster of fun (and some hard word!) ever since.
What was your greatest challenge in taking that leap of faith?
Managing our time! It seems like we never have enough time, especially once we’re in the design phase. There’s a lot more to running a business than creating the products, and sometimes we wish there wasn’t as it’s what we love most about our jobs.
You’ll be celebrating your first year in business this coming July, what’s been the most exciting moment to date?
Definitely Wilderness. It was amazing to have an opportunity to showcase our lights at a festival as spectacular as Wilderness so soon after we launched. It really was something else! Followed closely by the Kate Moss commission! Her agency asked us to turn their logo into neon. We love pretty much everything about Kate; her style, her drive, her passion – to make a bag&bones light for her new agency was such an honour.
bag&bones is such a creative, arty and aesthetically alluring brand, do you have a philosophy behind it all?
Oh thank you! We are trying to forge our own niche in the market so we try hard to ensure that everything we do is unmistakably bag&bones in the hope that as soon as someone sees a bag&bones neon, they know right away that it’s us. And I suppose, there is no secret to how we do that, we just love it so much that I think that is what (hopefully) comes across.
From idea to seeing one of your pieces on a customers Instagram feed, what is your favourite part of the process?
The design process is so much fun. We love working with our customers to come up with the perfect neon for them. You really get to know them and get an insight into what they’re like. It can be quite the LOL!!
The design process is undoubtedly a fun one and is clearly infused with some serious personal passion, where do you girls get your inspiration for new pieces that aren't personal commissions and what determines what makes the cut?
We’re heavily influenced by music. The radio is on pretty much all day at bag&bones HQ, and a certain tune or song lyric will spark a new idea and we’ll start doodling away. Proof if ever it was needed that good music and neon go hand in hand.
There are a certain amount of brands in the world that get ‘it’ right - whatever ‘it’ is. You know, that vibe that gives you a feeling but is hard to put into words. You ladies have got ‘it’ down for sure both professionally and personally, how would you describe your style?
bag&bones designs are generally bright & bold, but I guess we’re quite minimal as far as neon is concerned. There’s a quirky edge to what we do, too. So while you’ll find some classics like The Pink Flamingo in amongst the collection, we’ve also got some real curve balls like The End and The Party Light.
You’ve collaborated with amazing people and brands; Alexander McQueen, Grazia, Stylist, Wilderness and the Kate Moss Agency to name but a few, what’s next for Bag&Bones in terms of teaming up with others and what defines the right fit for you guys when you’re taking on such commissions?
We’ll continue to collaborate with brands we admire. It’s so much fun because everybody brings something slightly different to the table and you get so many amazing perspectives. We’ll be back at Wilderness again this year – we are creating some amazing pieces for them and can’t wait to see them in full glow!
What other people and brands have you got on your wish-list to work with?
Oh there are so many on our wish-list…you’ll have to stay-tuned to our insta to see what’s coming next!
You’re based between London and Ireland, how does that work logistically in the day-to-day running of the brand?
Skype and facetime! Cavanagh works long hours so we do most of our chatting and plotting at the weekend. It also gives us the excuse to have a weekend away in Dublin or London.
On the topic of different cities.. What are your favourite spots in London? And of course back home in The West of Ireland?
I love living and working in London – it’s so inspiring. There is so much going on, and so much to look at if only you take the time to look up from your phone! There’s beautiful street art and graffiti around every corner, and some of the best museums in the world. There’s something beautiful and inspiring waiting for you everywhere you go – from derelict buildings to gleaming new-builds. I love that about London – it will never get old and I will never run out of ideas as long as I am roaming the streets of London. Having said that, there is something that happens to my soul as soon as I wake up on the west coast of Ireland. There is nothing in the world like it. My sister runs Dolphin Beach Country House in Clifden – it’s probably my favourite place in the world, right on the sea. You can literally hear the dolphins breathe from your bed. It's heaven!
What’s next for Bag&bones?
We’re in the middle of wedding season so it’s a busy few months for us. We also feel so honored when brides and grooms get in touch and want to have a bag&bones neon at their wedding
And lastly, do you have any advice for those who, stuck in their day jobs, wish to break out and start their own thing?
Oh that’s a tough one. I almost don’t feel like we’re qualified to advise! We’ve been on such an amazing journey but it’s also been a massive learning curve. Running your own business is hard but I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you’ve got an idea and your passionate about it and you can see there is a niche in the market then go for it! Also get a mentor, if you can – it’s invaluable to have someone that you can turn to for advise as and when you need it. Someone that is not family or a friend is best as their advice will be impartial. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same business but it helps if they are in something similar.