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Marianne Sparrenius-Waters, owner & Swedish designer of RedDog Design

Marianne Sparrenius-Waters – founder of RedDog Design Ltd – is also the creative force behind the label. Her desirable leather handbags and accessories don’t stint on luxury, but celebrate a strong, pared-down Scandi-aesthetic.

But it’s not just about surface appearance. Her products ensure a perfect marriage of streamlined design vision with inner functionality. No bells and whistles, fad-of-the-moment decorative gimmicks / clutter. Each and every item in her capsule collection has rigour and staying-power.

In a nutshell, can you tell us what the essence is of the RedDog brand?
RedDog designs your handheld life! A smart, glamorous tool-kit with bite to help busy people organise and accessorise, with the added benefit of looking effortlessly glamorous! The RedDog range is a mixture of British Design, combined with Scandi Chic.

Can you tell us about your roots and how they have inspired your designs?
I was born in Sweden and I am one of five sisters. We were all brought up in the southern part of Sweden down by the sea, living so close to all the elements. Dramatic scenes made a big impact on me which I aspire to carry with me: the sea, the storms, the beautiful light. This is so apparent in both traditional and modern Swedish designs and I do hope it shines through my collections.

How do you tailor your marketing strategies to attract your perfect customers?
My perfect customers are all types of women (and many men!) and my designs are aiming to assist in organising and simplifying their handheld lives. Most of my marketing is done when I am attending national and international wholesale trade shows – these are my windows to get the RedDog collections noticed and stocked in independent boutiques and department stores that value the needs of their customers.

Apparently Dannii Minogue is a fan. What did she say about your designs that you found to be a particular compliment?
In one of Dannii’s latest blogs, which she dedicated to RedDog and my BagPods, she said, “Marianne’s pared-back Scandinavian aesthetics is evident in all her designs. Her philosophy: ‘wellbeing equals being well-organised’ makes a lot of sense to me. She’s not into gimmicks, preferring to put streamlined functionality ahead of trends or fads, and the result is a range of accessories that are effortlessly chic and practical.” I reckon that is a fantastic testimonial!

Which other celebrities would you like to see carrying your designs?
I would love to see Kate Middleton use one of my BagPods – with all her travelling and commitments she needs a little something to keep her organised!

The ‘BagPod’ is an ingenious idea. Can you tell us how you developed that?
Most of my adult life has been spent travelling as an expat with a husband and three children, and although the concept of an organiser already existed on the market, the look of them and the materials used were quite sad. I wanted something that you can show with pride nestling inside one of your handbags/briefcase – one can be organised AND chic at the same time you know! So, the work began to bring out the ultimate organiser and the BagPod was created. It is now available in buttersoft European leather, as well as a natural canvas – and more styles are evolving as we speak! The beauty of the leather BagPod is it doubles up as a beautiful clutch too, so in today’s restrictions on hand luggage on certain airlines, it becomes irresistible!

You’ve recently been named the winner of the Smarta 100: Together with 02 Award. How did this affect you?
It is absolutely amazing to be recognised for the hard work involved in running a growing business and to be awarded winner of the Smarta 100 as one of UK’s most “inspiring and brilliant” businesses is a wonderful acknowledgement. It makes it all worthwhile!

Past achievements include the Local Business Accelerators Awards, high commends from the Gift of the Year Awards and getting to the finals of Accessories Designer of the Year. What do you think is specifically recognised in your brand to gain such acknowledgement?
My collections are easy to fall in love with. The craftsmanship, the luscious leathers and the chic designs are timeless, easy on the eye and ultimately very useful. A winning combination!

What effect have these achievements had on the company?
It has definitely raised brand awareness and recognition as a strong, young brand in a tough market, during rather tough times. This leads to more orders, more stockists and so on.

Tell us, what designers do you admire?
Many designers appeal to me and many inspire me, but I don’t think I can name anyone specifically that I admire: Georgio Armani, Mulberry, Coco Chanel and Swedish Filippa Knutson (Filippa K) are some of them.

Are there any retailers you currently think are doing the ‘right thing’ in terms of business activities?
John Lewis is, in my eyes, the perfect partnership. Always ahead of time, they position themselves in a way that appeals to the majority of the general public, and they do it so well too.

How do you plan to take the RedDog business further over the next five years?
I am now at a stage where I am ready to take RedDog to the next level and to achieve this I am in strategy planning mode! Department stores and worldwide airline retail / duty-free are two of the areas we are working with at the moment. The demand for RedDog products is growing daily, both nationally and internationally, hence an expansion to take RedDog 5, 6 or 10 times bigger is a natural occurrence. Fascinating and utterly exiting and sometimes a little scary!

For readers wishing to get into the retail industry, can you offer any advice?
Be stubborn! My dear father-in-law used to say: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!’ It’s all a learning curve and I am still learning as I go along, meeting a few obstacles every now and then, but perseverance is vital.

Described as hosting a combination of ‘Scandi minimalist-chic with a hint of British flair’, what have you taken from the British culture and heritage?
The idea of quality leather products such as the products produced by Mulberry, Aspinal of London, Smythson – Family companies that perspires sophistication!

Unfortunately, it is well known that the world of business and entrepreneurs in the UK is largely dominated by the men. Can you tell us as a successful businesswoman, why do you think the number of women conducting business is lagging?
That’s historical. The trend line on growth is all things women! There are now women in boardrooms, more women CEO’s, more women driven start-ups than ever before.

What kind of difficult issues have you had to overcome?
Managing cashflow is a constant nightmare when investing in a growing business. Getting the balance right is crucial. I really want banks to help start-ups more – not just with funding, but there is a huge need for advice and support also.

Is there any advice you would give to women specifically who are thinking of starting out in business and need that extra push?
My advice is that anyone can do it! Just believe, persevere & work hard! And behind every successful woman is a great partner….that sounds familiar, doesn’t it!?

What kind of activities do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Tennis. I play in our local women’s team and I love it. If I had discovered it earlier I would have been there with Bjorn Borg representing Sweden! I might also take up running again – after my last marathon I told my husband ‘never again!’ but I think running a marathon is like child birth, you quickly forget the pain!

What can we expect from your next line of bags?
Functionality and chic-ness as always can be expected. But look out for my new line of handheld designs. Think Kindles and mini iPads…

Where did the company’s name ‘RedDog’ and logo come from?
We live outside a small town in South Wales, Abergavenny, in the countryside by a river. Once, a famous songwriter composed and sang a popular song about a ‘red dog running free in Abergavenny’ and it simply sprung from there – nothing to do with the music style I must admit! The dog was drawn using one of my children’s crayons one evening when my husband and I had a brainstorm, and although being rather plain it has become a familiar and loved logo, that is quickly recognisable with its trademark red colour.

Can you tell us how you think social media can help young businesses get up and running?
Social media talks to your community, your customer, your segment and it’s both an instantaneous and constant trickle feed of valuable information, edited by the granularity of the individual customer.

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