WITH NEWSPAPERS CONSTANTLY FILLING THEIR pages with word on the dour economic outlook, it comes as no surprise that consumers are exerting pensiveness when shopping. While handbags — especially those from young and independent brands — have been a boon at retail as of late, the question remains as to whether people will still clamor for bags at the astounding rates they have in the recent past. While the quandary is on the minds of industry members, it has not stopped a crop of new bag designers from popping up. By and large, these young designers have allotted for a slow start to their businesses, chalking it up to the looming recession and weak dollar. Retailers, while exerting caution in their buys, are still showing interest, looking for the next big thing. “None of the parameters have changed,” says Ed Burstell, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for nonapparel at Bergdorf Goodman. “In order to have the customer spend, you need to have great styling, great design and original thought. Things that are reactive and repetitious are just not going to be successful.” Burstell says brands such as Tano, Stephane Verdino and Pauric Sweeney are some of the independent bag brands that are performing at Bergdorf’s. Monica Prestia, founder of Stefanibags.com, a new e-commerce site geared toward bag lovers, says despite the rocky fiscal outlook, “women want a welldesigned, beautiful, timeless bag...without having to miss a mortgage payment for it.” Stefanibags.com carries designs from Bliss Lau, Jenny Yuen, Jalda and several others with prices ranging from about $200 to $850. Some designers are also following that credo, such as OneOctober, a new handbag line out of Los Angeles that uses salmon skin, which looks like snakeskin, but is actually a sustainable material. Launching this fall, prices range from $30 wholesale for a bracelet to $196 for a larger handbag. “We feel 100 percent confident launching in this economy as we are providing a product with a very reasonable price,” says co-designer Roxana Zal, who founded the company with Naomi Stokeld. “We had buyers that were very skeptical about entering into a new collection in this economy, but [many] ended up placing orders with confidence based on the product and the price point.” Sukari designer Alicia Ferriabough is also new to the bag game. A former entertainment lawyer for recording industry artists such as Nas and Run DMC, the Boston native is finally pursuing her love of accessories. The line incorporates clutches and day bags with accents of exotic skins. Prices wholesale from $300 to $1,500 for fall, the brand’s first season. “Overall, it’s a challenge proving yourself as a new designer,” says Ferriabough. “It’s a challenge of getting in the right boutiques and showing something that’s unique, in colors that transcend each season.” Other brands such as Notting Hill and JT Handbags are focused on top-tier luxury. Created by husband-and-wife team Kimberly and Steven Yurisich, the London-based Notting Hill offers bags in classic shapes and options such as all ostrich skin. The bags can take up to nine months to develop and wholesale from $550 to $6,800. “Some people say we take too much time, but I think we’re laying the ground work for the future,” says Steven Yurisich. “Building something unique and different takes a little while to get some traction.” Only one U.S retailer, Sophie Curson in Philadelphia, has picked up the line so far. Kaia Peterka, who has been designing an eponymous bag line since fall 2006, will be introducing more exotics. JT Handbags, founded by Jeffrey W. Parker and Tony T. Ta, who collectively designed accessories for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Kate Spade and Furla, are attacking the luxury sector, too. The supple leather totes, hobos, satchels and clutches are named after friends and loved ones, and retail prices range from $1,200 for a clutch to a large satchel for $4,000. The bags had a soft launch for spring in Henri Bendel and on luxcouture.com, and JT handbags also has distribution in stores in the Middle East, Moscow, Austria and Italy. “The only thing that seems to be a bit of a drawback is the exchange rate,” laments Ta. “Some say our bags are expensive, but our bags take from six to 12 hours to make. They’re artisanal.” Henri Bendel is one retailer that is an ardent supporter of independent designers. The retailer still has its Open See event in which new designers bring their collections to be reviewed by the store’s buyers and styles are showcased from the finalists of the Independent handbag Designer Awards. Scott Schramm, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of fashion for Henri Bendel, says, “We are always on the hunt for new designers and collections that fit into our lifestyle merchandising [strategy].”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast