NEW YORK — Emily Blumenthal blames being a “garmento offspring” for her career path.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The former handbag designer — who designed, launched, produced and did marketing and sales for her own line for five years — founded the Handbag Designer Awards in 2006 as a forum to guide others seeking a career in the trade.

After halting production on her own collection in 2005, she decided to pen a book documenting the process. She started working on her first draft of “Handbag Designer 101” while simultaneously teaching fashion courses at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising. This led to the creation of her Web site,

Blumenthal is careful not to describe her online destination — which just underwent a facelift last week — as a “blog.” Instead, she refers to it as a “medium” where aspiring handbag designers can get recognized and obtain the tools they need to start their own businesses.

It was from this Internet portal that The Independent Handbag Designer Awards were born.

Approaching its fifth anniversary and the second consecutive year with InStyle as the presenting sponsor, the annual awards seek to help aspiring handbag designers get recognized. Through April 30, the application process is open for the June 15 ceremony, which includes two new categories this year. The first is an Artisan House award sponsored by Isabel Fiore, where the winner will get to create a line of handbags for the designer, and the second is the InStyle Red Carpet Ready award, where the chosen designer’s piece will get featured at the InStyle Summer Soiree and be taken home by a celebrity guest. Other branded partners include Dooney and Bourke and Timberland.

“With this event, we’ve given designers opportunities for branding and exposure in an oversaturated market of accessories, and we’ve been successful in doing so,” Blumenthal said.

But it’s the arrival of her book that has Blumenthal excited. Nearly six years in the making, “Handbag Designer 101” is slated for release this fall and is available for preorder on

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