We speak to Liam Bowden of Deadly Ponies

He’s come a long way from crafting pieces in his garage to the helm of this killer bag label.

A natural-born creative, Liam Bowden of luxury leathergoods brand Deadly Ponies has a real love of making things, seeing finished products, and every other part of the process for that matter. A fresh idea is seeded every day at the Auckland studio he runs with his husband/business partner Steven Boyd — and he revels in it.

Liam, what stories do you want to tell through your work? For me, it’s multilayered. The first layer is exciting our customers by bringing creators, designers or influencers to their attention; I hope to highlight someone or something that might spark creativity or light within them, encouraging a shared community. The second layer is the idea of lust for something they’ll cherish forever, and the third layer is giving them a feeling of pride to own a piece from a brand that has an ethos of integrity and sustainability. 

MAIN IMAGE the past 15 years, I feel proud to have created a business that has integrity around the product we make and the footprint we leave behind,” says Liam, seen here in Deadly Ponies’ Eden Terrace studio. “In the future, that’ll become even more important, and we’ll focus even more on the care we put into our product and the impact that has on people and the planet.” ABOVE Deadly Ponies’ colours and patterns are often pleasingly unexpected, and Liam says their selection is predominately about the inspiration for each season and what works within a collection. “We also consider what colour a true Deadly Ponies collector would want in their wardrobe, then try to ensure we offer something muted and something bolder, to cater to all tastes.”

There’s a lot going on in the studio… We have the full suite of outputs happening here, beginning with design and material development and extending all the way through to marketing, photo shoots, sales and distribution. We’ve worked hard to create a collaborative setting, so we can easily share ideas and have a sense of family in everything we do.

What informs the aesthetic of each new collection? We’re constantly working on material innovations with new and existing suppliers, so a lot of the time our development is material-and colour-based, which evokes a mood or feeling for the collection. We also have an ongoing aesthetic that forms a wider story around the look of our products; we want them to feel timeless.
For our latest collection, Fall Winter ’21 Part III, we took inspiration from furniture designer Gaetano Pesce and his voluminous, balloon-like Feltri chairs. This idea of exaggeration set the tone for inflated chains and straps on some of our most iconic designs, turning them into supersized pieces to be worn with the rest of the collection.

What books are on your bedside table? Picasso & Paper by the Royal Academy of Arts and Karl Lagerfeld’s Villa Noailles.

Is this where you find inspiration for styling your beautiful campaigns? As a starting point, I often look to the world of art and sculpture, such as how an ancient vase or an antique rug might be displayed in a gallery or shop. From there, we’ll craft a concept, creating a world around our bags so they seem less like handbags and more like precious collector’s objects.

Given your penchant for art and antiques, are you a collector too? I love collecting and can definitely become obsessive about certain styles and items. I have a long wishlist that’s constantly being added to with art, clothes or books. Previously, it was Gouda pottery, which has now found its home in our Britomart store. At the moment, I’m collecting volcanic rocks and stones.

ABOVE Outside of the nine to five, Liam’s likely to be found home-renovating with Steve. Their refined eye for interiors shows in the fit-outs of their stores and studio/HQ too, which they’ve decorated with functional local finds and antique furniture picked up on their travels. “I like to reuse and repurpose, so we  also include pieces from previous pop-up stores and retail environments,” says Liam. “In this large, industrial space, we’ve opted for wood and sisal for a feeling of warmth. I’m drawn to materials that have a sense of craft.”

As someone who appreciates the natural world, how are you tackling Deadly Ponies’ environmental responsibilities? The accomplishment I’m most proud  of was setting up our own eco-atelier two years ago in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s been a massive step forward in achieving our sustainability goals and having real transparency and control around our supply chain and manufacturing.
We’ve also recently established a sustainability committee at DP HQ, to spearhead our goals and so we can be constantly on the lookout for innovations in the industry. Right now, our focus is on becoming carbon neutral, publishing our first transparency report and achieving B-Corp and Zero Waste certification by 2022 — so watch this space!

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Scott Hardy

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