NEW YORK — Kara Ross is taking a cue from Nike.
The New York-based jewelry and handbag designer is launching a new product online and in-store, built around a customization tool that goes live today on the brand’s e-commerce site at kararossny.com. It’s similar to NikeiD, which allows consumers to design every element of their sneaker down to minutest details, but for exotic handbags.
The first iteration of #myPURSEonality is a clutch that’s based on the face and highlighting its specific features — including a range of nine clutches as well as an option for shoppers to create their own bag.
“We wrapped a whole concept and story around this, created characters, built a backstory for these characters and created animation for them,” Ross said at her headquarters and showroom. “The bags are the component we’re selling but we have a whole conceptual program using the face of these bags to build out the personalities.”
There are six small and three larger size clutches in the debut collection, including the $1,595 “Uptown Girl,” a black leather style with white, blue and pink exotic eyes; the $1,795 “Pop Star,” a champagne leather bag with black python sunglasses and red, heart-shaped lips, and the $2,850 “Mogul,” an oversize black suede clutch with a black hornback alligator spine and exotic accents that is the most expensive in the collection.
But the core of the program is a customizable option that allows shoppers to select everything from the material and color of their bag — black leather, black python and cream python are among the choices — to the eyebrows, eyes, glasses, lips and cheeks. For the time being, this is only available for the smaller size clutch and retails for $1,795, but Ross has plans to expand silhouettes available for personalization for upcoming seasons.
Personalization as it pertains to handbags thus far has been mostly limited to picking leather or hardware colors — Edie Parker a notable exception with her popular acrylic minaudières that can be special ordered with the wearer’s name — and Ross sees a real opportunity. She not only wants to make bespoke accessories for her customers, but create an entire experience — including entertainment — surrounding the process.
As part of a strategic campaign that straddles the on and offline worlds, Ross has already partnered with several influencers like Tina Craig of Bag Snob, Fivestory’s Claire Distenfeld, Cailli and Sam Beckerman of Beckerman Blog and model Soo Joo Park to design their own bags.
In addition to Ross selling direct through kararossny.com and in her store, Distenfeld will sell #myPURSEonality bags in her Upper East Side store. E-commerce site Tinker Tailor is selling three styles of the clutch, and Shopbop picked up the line as well, with totes and makeup cases hitting the site in July.
To round out the program, Ross also hired an illustrator to draw the bodies for each bag — a drawing that lives as an installation in the window of the brand’s boutique on Madison Avenue and as animation on the homepage of karaross.com. There is also a detailed “Which PURSEonality Are You?” quiz on the site, as well as a dedicated section for user generated images posted with the hashtag #myPURSEonality.