“Intrigued by the legacy of the handbag as fashion accessory de rigeur and one of the current stars in this embittered turf – Paige Gamble, we sent out Natalie Fasano recently to meet up with Paige. What follows is a provocative entrée in the way we are, handbag and all.” Scallywag.
I approached Kittichai, at 60 Thompson St, about 30 minutes late, ruing the perfect storm of horrific New York traffic and inept cab drivers that had diabolically descended from the heavy sky, directly upon me. As I entered, I noticed a young woman sitting to the left of the hostess. She was wearing a jade green dress with a neckline wreathed in gold-set, colorful stones, sporting an impressive python tote. She looked at me expectantly, though the commonality of this gesture in Manhattan did not immediately betray that she was indeed looking for me. I turned to the smiling hostess: “Has Paige Gamble arrived yet?” “No,” she calmly replied. I walked outside. Five minutes later Scallywag’s harassed looking publicist- Sonia Anand arrived from the saturated haze that enveloped us all this evening—“Paige is inside and traffic is horrible.” I should have known—Paige Gamble, couture handbag designer known for her use of exotic materials, would of course have been the young woman clutching an immense python skin. I made my apologies.
We were seated outside. Slender plant fronds engulfed our wooden table, swaying suspiciously in the still air. Perhaps they were moved by the alluring scent of authentic Thai cuisine dissipating from the tables beside us: coconut milk, lemongrass, peanut sauces and fried panko created an interactive tableau of Kittichai’s menu offering this evening. Add to this Paige’s assortment of stingray, crocodile, and alligator clutches, bedecked with semiprecious stones, strewn about the table and I, based on a purely sensory analysis of our environment, would have had to conclude that we were not in Manhattan anymore. How beautiful, to discuss 5th Avenue in the heart of Thailand. Paige settled into her seat, mint-infused cocktail at the ready, and opened up to me about New York fashion and her place in it.
You were not always a couture handbag designer; in fact, you come from a career in finance. What was the transition from Wall Street to 5th Avenue like? Did you always harbor artistic aspirations or was the desire to become a designer gradual?
Well, it all started when I found something that I really loved; it was a YSL bag covered in turquoise. I began to play with bags; gluing stuff on them…they were so ugly. Slowly but surely, however, I started making things that looked decent. I remember traveling to Italy to study art in college; my professor told me that I would never be good enough. I thank her now, though it didn’t stop me from creating the most beautiful PowerPoint presentations Wall Street has ever seen.
Every handbag is unique, tailored for a certain kind of woman. Commissioned pieces aside, what sort of woman inspires your creations? Does “she” change every time?
I see what I do as matchmaking. It is my job to take beautiful things and put them with other beautiful things. There is an audible noise when I put the right thing with the right thing, though it’s all trial and error. My designs are non-referential—that is, without regard to a certain space, time or specific person. I want to create a sense of timelessness in each piece.