Discovering Rivers Eight during this time has been a revelation. Not only are they a sustainable and cruelty-free accessories brand, manufacturing locally in LA with minimal waste, their rubber “exotic skin” bags, waist packs, wristlets, and pouches can be hands free and get this, wiped down and cleaned after use. Genius! The brand was born with travel in mind and founder Amanda Schuon is always seeking to elevate and expand her horizons, both professionally and personally. Read on to hear about Rivers Eight origin story and where they’re going next (hint, it’s ouai cool).
Things are a little different right now, we’re in an unprecedented time…how have you shifted as a business and as an individual to accommodate this new normal?
We should first acknowledge how difficult it has been to see local businesses struggle—restaurants, boutiques, galleries, salons, etc. Los Angeles is a dynamic city, woven together with the fabric of artists and dreamers and entrepreneurs. I’m worried we’re losing them as the struggle to stay afloat becomes too strenuous.
Personally, we are buying from local stores whenever possible, especially books! We love Diesel and Book Soup. Although I cook a lot, we make an effort to order from our favorite restaurants 1-2 times each week.
Professionally, we are continuing our production in Los Angeles, however we have downshifted the number of pieces we are making. We are taking a very careful, measured approach to production until we feel it’s appropriate to ramp back up. Fortunately, we are incredibly nimble and can make changes quickly and efficiently.
Sustainability and being cruelty-free is part of your core DNA at Rivers Eight, can you tell us what led you to develop products with a gentle environmental footprint?
Our environmental impact really revolves around sourcing and manufacturing locally. We aren’t shipping source material around the world— even our zippers are made in downtown LA. We also manage small production runs so there is little to no material waste.
The cruelty-free piece was important to me as an animal lover. Once you fall down the rabbit hole of researching how skins—exotics in particular—are sourced, it will turn your stomach. Without going into detail, the sale of python skin has been banned in California since 1971 because the methods in which the skins were procured were too inhumane. Designing with a skin that is made of a durable rubber while perfectly mimicking a genuine exotic felt like a win. This way, the wearer wouldn’t have to be precious with her bag— it was designed for adventure…whether this is sightseeing in Rome with a waist pack, or taking a hike in the Hollywood Hills with that same bag.
Rivers Eight was built around travel. With people sticking closer to home these days, how have you adapted as a brand?
We have shifted the focus to the hands-free aspect of some of our day bags and how strapped a bag to your body helps minimize contact with the outside world. For example, at the market you don’t have to place your bag in the shopping cart, it stays on you. Additionally, the rubber material allows you to sanitize the bag with any household cleaner. This is great for stain removal, and for those who prefer to wipe down everything upon returning home.
The simple texture of your skins, python, alligator belly, caiman, stingray, and lizard are a “particular” in and of themselves, they have so much character. Which one is your favorite and why?
The “python” is my favorite, hands down. There are several alligator embossed leather pieces in the world that look authentic, but python is another story. It’s very difficult to mimic the three dimensionalities of the scales, but our pieces are a perfect facsimile of the real skin.
You also offer a lot of hands-free options which are so critical right now, do you find that people wear the belt bags both dressed up and dressed down?
We are so thrilled that people have abandoned their bias against waist packs/fanny packs, because they are truly life changing! Not only do they protect your neck and shoulders from strain, but they help you simplify—you only carry what you need. And because our material is so luxurious looking, the waist pack can be worn to belt a day dress or strapped on over workout pants. It’s appropriate for all attire and occasions.
We have all learned that life can change in the blink of an eye, so why not seize the moment and chart our own course.
What are some of your daily particulars that you always put on (jewelry, accessories…etc.)?
Every day, I wear a Manta Ray necklace carved from wood. It was a gift from Kathy Rose, the owner of Roseark, the most impeccably and uniquely curated jewelry store. Since quarantine, my daily footwear includes rubber Birkenstocks. I’ve gone crazy and bought them in every color and style.
With summer almost over, what’s next?
We have two daughters, ages 11 and 15. With all the uncertainty around school and whether they will be on campus or learning via Zoom, we decided to take the year off and move to France. My husband has projects abroad, so he’ll be able to work remotely, and I will manage my Los Angeles production from afar. We have all learned that life can change in the blink of an eye, so why not seize the moment and chart our own course.