By Courtney Knowles
Who is Steve Harkin?
He is an Australian and the grandson of the English and Irish immigrants.
You’re known for your bag making but is there anything else you create?
I suppose I create the re-styling of vintage and art deco furniture, I have done commercial art and a range of things in my past – used to do building and that sort of thing but I suppose I’m best known for the bag making.
Why have you set up a shop in Folkestone?
We had some bags and furniture in a shop on Bermondsey Street in London and Barbra was managing it. We had been looking at doing our own shop. One of our earlier customers actually owns a shop on the Old High street and she offered that to us with a flat too. And then the Creative Foundation family have been quite supportive. A year and a half ago we moved to this shop we’re in now; now one of the reasons being I suppose it was available and I think Folkestone’s got a lot going for it.
Where is your favourite place in Folkestone?
The Coastal Park. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I was invited to an interview with the general manager of Chanel in Paris. I went in on my due time for the interview and I went to reception and they said yes just go get in that lift over there. So I went over but however I got in the wrong lift and it was this tiny little thing that I could barely even squeeze in, then went up to the first floor. Then of course they couldn’t find me and I couldn’t find them. So I was sort of wondering around in the afterhours of the Chanel headquarters – his assistants trying to find me, I’m trying to find them. I felt like a bit of an idiot to start with.
How would you describe the colour yellow to somebody who's blind?
If I say to someone let’s stand outside on a really hot day with the sun burning on your face. If you place your hand onto your face it feels red. If I say let’s stand outside on a cold day and you feel the cold on your face, we say that’s blue. Then on a mild not too hot day, you put your hand on your face that would feel warm and yellow.
What is your favourite Disney character?
If I had to choose one – Shrek.
What keeps you awake at night?
Money worries. Always money worries. Used to be kid worries but their grown up now. But it’s sort of where does the next pound come from. How are we going to pay the rent and costs of things, it’s been too much of that for too long. We could have a run of a few weeks of sales yet go very long times with nothing being brought. The Harbour Arm is a great thing to happen but our trading figures have gone down to 50% since that, if you can’t get people into your shop you can’t sell anything. Barbra does all sorts of things to help promote the shop and most importantly she works very hard promoting the bags.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My father. He grew up in abject poverty in Australia. He was the third eldest boy out of a family of eight. When he was fourteen, his two older brothers had a job therefore he had to get one. He started out as a tradesman and then he did night school whilst working shift work for seven years to get an engineer’s degree. Then he improved his life, his work status through promotion and hard work. His aim was to provide for us and to make sure we never went without like he did. He was also a maker, if my car would break down he’d say come on come over and I’ll fix it. He taught me how not to be afraid of trying things. And I think probably one of the proudest moments of my life was probably when I was about 18, he had this old mate who had a shed with a carpet in it and we used to go round there to fix the car. His mate and somebody else who was there was taking the micky out of me saying “you useless idiot” and my father stuck his head out and said “listen mate, this kid can do anything, anything at all and he can fix anything”. So that was probably the proudest moment in my life in that respect.
Tell us a joke.
Religion is one of God’s little jokes that went wrong.