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Carrying On: Olivia Harris Handbags Expands

Yes, Joy Gryson is the designer of Olivia Harris, the lower-priced handbag line that launched for spring 2008.

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Yes, Joy Gryson is the designer of Olivia Harris, the lower-priced handbag line that launched for spring 2008.

Gryson and her husband, Peter Gryson, partners in the design consultancy Tribeca Design Ltd., admit their marketing ploy for the line, named for the Grysons’ five-year-old daughter and attributed to “a young design prodigy raised by two downtown New York designers,” fell flat. But with the economy in a free fall and Joy Gryson’s luxury line Gryson taking a hit in sales, the pair have dropped the pretense and tripled both Olivia Harris’ size and points of distribution for spring 2009.

“In this economy and in general, with the sort of mixed message about the brand, we want to be more clear and more focused about what Joy is doing,” explains Peter Gryson, the former president of men’s brands at Cipriani Accessories. Well-regarded for her three-year stint as accessories designer at Marc Jacobs as well as her self-titled collection, which she launched in 2006, Joy Gryson recognized the benefit of attaching her name to a line that can weather the continuing retail crunch. For spring, wholesale prices range from $75 to $250, in contrast to the wholesale prices of Gryson, which start at $450.

Which is not to say that Olivia Harris is a diffusion line, insists Joy Gryson. “I think of Olivia Harris as a much funkier brand, sort of a Brooklyn girl’s bag, whereas Gryson is more luxury, more downtown,” she says. To wit, Gryson has punched up Olivia Harris with pastel colors, working bright yellow and green and fuchsia Italian leathers into playful round satchels and shoulder bags with pleating. The more grown-up Gryson collection, meanwhile, features lean brown and black leather totes, chain straps and clutches.

“When the economy hit the skids, it became clear that we had to create a bigger business opportunity for Olivia Harris,” says Peter Gryson. “Joy is taking the artisanal qualities of Gryson, and now she’s [infusing] it with a different point of view.”

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