MONIQUE MOIZEL SAYS HER “EMOTIONAL” BAGS ARE A WAY FOR YOUNG GIRLS TO CARRY THEIR FEELINGS ON THEIR SLEEVES.
Byline: Marcy Medina
While the women of “Sex and the City” covet their Fendi baguettes, their teen counterparts go crazy for a status accessory of their own, Topsy Turvy handbags.
The colorful, reversible bags are as fervently collected as trading cards by the high school set. At her recent Nordstrom trunk show, where the cast of “Beverly Hills 90210” made an appearance, Monique Moizel was besieged by squealing girls wanting her to autograph their bags.
Now, the young woman behind the 2 1/2-year-old company is set to broaden her business by jumping into the contemporary category with a new line of signature leather handbags and belts. The Seventies-inspired rhinestone buckled belts, which she launched during the resort market, were met with such enthusiasm that Moizel is rushing to get handbag samples ready for spring. Bags will range in price from $40 to $60, and belts will be $65 to $85.
“It will be very Spanish in flavor, with hand-tooling and rhinestones,” said Moizel, who plans to take an “inspiration trip” to Tijuana. Another group will be made from vintage Seventies striped fabric.
Topsy Turvy’s basic bodies, priced from $10 to $24 wholesale, include small and medium-sized reversible totes, messenger bags and her own version of the baguette. But her fabrics range from vintage pinup girl-printed cottons to gold-painted denim to Astroturf. Her reversible bags are often contrasting combinations of the two.
To match teens’ fickle tastes, Moizel produces new groups for Topsy Turvy every month and can fill orders for stores like Fred Segal, Rag Factory, Nordstrom, Rampage and Limbo Lounge in as little as three weeks. “I don’t like to give stores the same thing when they reorder,” she said. “I like to keep it fast, clean and good-looking.”
Moizel started out as a student at Otis School of Design, but she was asked to leave her junior year because “the teachers and I didn’t see eye to eye.” While her classmates were preparing for jobs at Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, she explained, “I did my own thing. They actually asked me to find another career.”
After a year of odd jobs, Moizel started making handbags and hats from animal printed fake fur. Her designs caught the eye of a friend’s businessman dad, who agreed to invest $5,000 in her line. “That was like a million dollars to me back then,” she said. The next day, she went to Traffic, Fred Segal and Forever 21 and wrote $3,500 in orders.
For a year, she managed to rep herself and work out of a 400-square-foot studio, until the business grew too big. She moved into her current 2,000-square-foot studio and hired a rep.
“She sat me down and said, ‘Are you ready for this? Because it’s going to be very, very big.’ I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’ And then it happened, and I was like, ‘Whoa! This IS big.’ “
Moizel’s sales jumped from $560,000 in 1999 to close to $1 million so far this year.
The designer caters to her stores and often makes exclusive bags for clients like Nordstrom and Rampage. “We go over their colors for the season, and I will design around them. Nordstrom once took an order from me over the phone, without seeing the line.”
Moizel reads the trend journals to keep her bodies current. However, she said, “I try to stay away from trends. I do what’s eye-catching and loud.”
Often, she lets her feelings guide her. “My emotions come out in my bags. They’re like therapy for me. I also think it’s a way for girls to interpret what they feel.” For spring, she predicts leather hobo bags, colored acid-washed denim with colored stones and backpacks will be strong.
She also hopes to design clothing someday, perhaps with her younger sister, a designer for Ralph Lauren. But she’s wary of taking on too much too soon.
“I have to go back to my old 400-square-foot studio every once in a while, to remind myself how big the business has gotten. It’s scary. I’ve seen people get huge one day and go out of business the next. I just take it day by day.”