DESIGNING WOMEN

NEW YORK — When designers Lucy Wallace Eustice and Monica Zwirner joined forces to create a handbag line, there was no question that the result would be fashionable and refined.
They first met when Eustice was working at Manolo Blahnik and Zwirner was a freelance stylist.
“We became fast friends, sharing cigarettes in the basement of the store,” says Eustice. Zwirner later married and moved to Hamburg and continued her styling career in Europe. Eustice became accessories director at both Harper’s Bazaar and Elle and later worked at Schwartz & Benjamin in product development and was a vice-president at Patrick Cox. They lost touch for about 10 years, and last spring they bumped into each other by chance at the farmer’s market in Union Square here. After catching up, it occurred to Zwirner,who was toying with the idea of starting a handbag line, to propose a business venture to Eustice.
“It’s a great match,” says Zwirner. “We completely trust each other and our ideas are unbelievably similar. Working together is a very fun and creative process.”
The line, called MZ Wallace, consists of tote and travel bags in durable materials such as leather; Cordura nylon; burlap; a silver aluminum-based, fire-retardant fabric, and a whimsical cotton laminated flower print fabric.
“Our goal was to create cool bags that have a chic and groovy look,” says Eustice. “We wanted to create luxurious pieces at a price that are both sophisticated and timeless.” The bags come in a range of color combinations such as fuchsia with orange and green with light blue. Racier pieces include the terrific silver aluminum-based fabric bags with natural leather trim, and the camouflage print with red or natural leather trim. The travel collection, consisting of weekend bags, features the same materials and colors.
The launch of the collection will take place at their new store on Crosby Street today. The store, designed by architect Annabelle Seldorf and decorated with furniture from Austrian designer Franz West, perfectly reflects the simple sophistication of the designers and their handbags.
“We wanted to create a place that was both modern and inviting. We want our customers to feel comfortable, not intimidated by the environment,” says Zwirner.
The duo also plan to add new pieces as often as possible. “We want to have a Gap mentality where we will be constantly introducing new colors and shapes, keeping our merchandise fresh and exciting,” says Eustice. The line, which is made in New York, wholesales from $65 for a Cordura nylon tote to $175 for a leather bag.