El Camino launched in the Autumn of 2013. Developed by Canadian born Candace Kellough, and Oxford raised Tom Lane, the buzz for the travel jewellery brand began shortly after this. Hitting headlines across the Canadian print press and among popular travel bloggers, El Camino quickly became a much desired accessory for travel enthusiasts.
The El Camino journey began one sunny May afternoon following a 10km hike across arid land and the rugged coastal paths. Candace and Tom were on an adventure with a loose aim to reach Monaco before the end of the summer. They departed their journey in April from Barcelona with no set route or itinerary. This is how the pair liked to travel. It allowed for flexibility and spontaneity.
Carrying a small tent and only the bare essentials, they set up camp that evening in an area known as Sa Tuna. The pair went about their usual routine – Candace would pitch the tent while Tom collected wood for the fire. Settling down to cook some much needed food to refuel for the next day’s adventure, the pair began to reminisce about previous travel experiences. They were enjoying the complete lack of electricity and modern technology. It allowed time for talking, thinking and creativity.
“We came up with the El Camino concept when hiking the beautiful coastal route between Barcelona and Monaco,” says Candace. “We were sitting outside our tent one evening in June struggling to remember the countries we had visited. As we began to list the places we had travelled, we would find ourselves forgetting exactly where we had been.”
It was at that very point that the travel loving duo decided they would do something about it. Picking up their travel journal, Candace and Tom began to brainstorm ideas. They wanted to create a product that would help document travel experiences.
“We knew that bracelets were a popular purchase for travellers, so it made sense to create a product around this trend,” mentioned Candace. “We wanted to help people remember the amazing countries they have visited.”
The pair worked into the night, jotting down thoughts and potential concepts. They sketched a series of bracelet designs and made notes on how it could represent travel memories from around the world. At that stage Candace and Tom never imagined it could become a lucrative business.
“We had visions of our friends and family comparing travel bracelets and sharing stories of past adventures.” reports Tom. “We imagined the great conversations that would come from it.”
That summer passed by in a flash. Memories of days spent hiking, swimming, cooking and camping filled their minds. Their travel journal was bursting with stories, and the rough drawings of a potential bracelet project were still evident.
Candace and Tom returned to the UK in early June of that same year. The pair started to experiment with bracelet designs, making one-off samples and exploring different weaving techniques.
“The original batch of bracelets were given to close friends and family,” says Tom. “Each bracelet carried a selection of beads, individually engraved with the names of different countries, islands, cities and landmarks.”
Word of the bracelets quickly spread. Friends were telling friends, and excited family members were shouting it from the roof tops. It was at this point that Candace and Tom decided to name the project. With a nod to its Spanish roots, the pair settled on the name El Camino, meaning route, bypath, road, track or trail.
“We felt El Camino was the perfect name for the brand. It captured everything the bracelet project stood for,” says Candace. “The support we received in the first few months of launching was overwhelming. It’s something myself and Tom will always be so grateful for.”
In the early days of El Camino, Candace and Tom covered all aspects of the business themselves. It wasn’t unusual for the pair to be working a minimum of 14-16 hours each day.
“When we officially launched El Camino, we were based at Tom’s parent’s house in Oxfordshire,” mentions Candace. “The business operated from a spare room above the garage. It was surrounded by trees so we called it our treehouse. We both handmade the bracelet cords for the first 18 months but we soon realised we needed help. It’s such a time-consuming process and once El Camino started to take off, there just wasn’t enough hours in the day for us to be running the business and making the bracelets.”
Candace and Tom took on their first employee in November 2014. Relieving the pair from hours of bracelet weaving, they finally found extra time to focus their attention on other parts of the business.
“It was such a relief to find our first helper,” Tom states. “It gave myself and Candace the time to develop other aspects of El Camino. We are pleased to say that she is still working for us today, and she loves the travel lifestyle that bracelet weaving allows her to have.”
In 2015, Candace and Tom decided that it was time to move the business from leafy Oxfordshire and lay down roots in Cornwall. Missing the ocean, they decided they wanted to spend any free time they had on the beach. El Camino HQ can now be found minutes from the rugged Cornish coastline in Newquay.
Since those humble beginnings, El Camino has developed into a much-loved travel bracelet brand that provides for customisation and storytelling. The brand may have grown in size since 2013, but it goes without saying that the core factors of the business still remain the same – the bracelet cords are lovingly handmade by men and women across the UK, the stainless steel Steps are engraved by the same gentleman who lives just minutes away from Tom’s parent’s house, and the glass Region Steps are handmade in the English countryside.
Travelling brought Candace and Tom together. It shapes how they live their lives, and inspires them to build the El Camino brand. The plan moving forward? To continue making memories across the globe and sharing their inspiration with other travel enthusiasts.