Speaking of timelessness, you stress the fact that your bags will weather many years of hard New York use and abuse. Do you think that your approach in favor of longevity has been lacking in major brands over the years?
This goes back to the question of high/low fashion. On the low end, at places like Topshop and H+M, pieces are disposable. New inventory is coming in every day, especially accessories. I participate in this as a consumer, not as a designer and feel that there is a place for it in the fashion industry.
What about the “It” bag? Isn’t it essentially disposable by virtue of a new one appearing every few months, rendering the last virtually obsolete?
I think that there’s an evolution away from the “It” bag. My clients have all of them, and now they want something to cause a stir. My bags are never on sale because the price perfectly reflects the cost; each design is worth what I say it’s worth. My clients find comfort in the long-term prospect. You can call anything couture, anything luxury, but the customer always knows. If a meaningful percentage of your company’s revenue is tied to sale items, you aren’t a luxury brand. You’re just trying to blow through the system instead of making something worth paying for. It’s scary sometimes, seeing Valentino bags $600 off. We need to move back towards scarcity.
How did the handbag become a symbol of luxury? Why do people buy them?
I really don’t know. Truthfully, I was never really a handbag person growing up. Maybe it’s because one size fits all, you can carry it everywhere and it’s a statement piece at the same time. One of the major fashion trends of the past 10 years is the idea of “dressing down,” and an incredible bag can really say something, take you to the next level.
.Is fashion ever truly personal? You just defined a handbag as a “statement piece.” Are we all just trying to impress one another?
There are certainly two types of clients; the ones who buy solely for themselves and the others, who actively seek public reaction. Every client I have met knows what she wants, and what she is looking for. I simply look to make the connection.
You also draw inspiration from art, architecture and history. Can you give me some examples? Which historical period, monument, sculpture or painting is a major source of influence?
Again, I’m not a referential designer, at least not consciously. For me, design isn’t seeing something inspirational and immediately sourcing colors, shapes or textures accordingly. I don’t want to copy anything. I have a favorite painting in the world, with the most beautiful color green, though I never tried to duplicate the color in my own work. The street style, pieces you see in windows, all of these stimuli merge into the collective consciousness to create new trends, new colors, and new shapes.
You seek out some of the most specialized individuals to contribute their craft to your overall work of art. For example, you source hand-pressed flowers from a third-generation flower maker in New York. Do you see designing as a collaborative effort; are you a patron of the arts, an artist, or both?
I am not an artist. That is a very serious thing to be. I consider myself a well-educated consumer who is also a craftsman, a collector of beautiful things. I really love working with interesting people whose incredible skills offer great collaborative results in my pieces. They are all part of the creation in the same way that the exotic is part of the creation.
Your line is all one-of-a-kind, handcrafted pieces, made for the individual shopper rather than to a collective set of women. You present new pieces on a weekly basis, and have said that style seasons don’t hold too much weight for you. How has this sporadic approach affected your visibility in large department stores, who generally buy a year in advance?
In the last year, the CEO of Fendi, along with Diane von Furstenberg have said that there’s too much inventory out there, too much of everything. Part of this problem is that buyers are so removed from what people want. Something is off when you have a runway show one year before people are shopping. I can scale up rapidly if necessary; I’m more flexible, but I can’t enter into a relationship with these stores and not deliver.