As a child growing up in Lewisburg, W. Va., Meredith German would often visit The Greenbrier, a nearby resort with grand interiors that were famously redone by Dorothy Draper in the late Forties using layer upon layer of florals and pastel tones. “I’ve always been drawn to big colors,” explained German, 32, whose new accessories collection, Meredith Wendell — a combination of the designer’s and her husband’s first names — offers evidence of that credo: suede and leather pouches, messenger bags and belts done in lemon yellow, red, blue and peach, and accented by filmy, tinted glass discs.
This story first appeared in the March 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A certain joie de vivre was a staple of German’s childhood, something she owes to her grandparents, who raised her and were her companions on those early Greenbrier visits. “Their attitude was the crazier, the bolder, the better,” German said. It seemed appropriate, then, that when her grandfather passed away last year, she quit her job in accessories design at Marc by Marc Jacobs to start a lineup of quirky, color-popping pieces. “[My grandfather] was always saying, ‘When are you going to go out on your own?’” German recalled.
With her husband, Wendell Ross German, as her partner, the designer began the first step in launching her business with a visit last spring to an Indiana glass factory, which was the original supplier for Louis Comfort Tiffany. She sorted through hundreds of color combinations — slabs of stained glass in swirling hues — and settled upon 31, which were cut into circular pieces, inset in pewter, hand-dipped in 18-karat gold and, finally, affixed to the Italian goat suede belts and kangaroo leather pouches German designed.
A self-described “animal jewelry nut,” German also advised the factory’s artisans to cut some of the glass pieces to form the backbone and head of a leopard, the connecting hardware serving as a handle on bags and a full necklace (the clutches wholesale for between $148 and $278, while belts range from $98 to $262). These are statement pieces, whimsical and distinctive, but she is confident that fanciful does not equal impractical. “I liked the idea of doing a cosmetic bag that’s nice enough to use as an evening bag,” she said of the clutches. “We did do one black bag, and I was looking at it, and just thought, ‘Oh.’ There’s nothing wrong with a black bag — but people could use some color. The more, the better.”