LOS ANGELES — If designers looking to find inspiration have an Eden here, it is probably the Rose Bowl Flea Market, a gigantic weekly bazaar of everything from the nostalgic to the downright ridiculous.
Handbag brand Tylie Malibu owes its life to the flea market. It was there that owner Lisa Izad got the idea to develop handbags out of vintage bandanas. Later, she would pick up worn belts to use as bag straps.
The result of Izad’s rummaging: In 2002, she introduced the classic Tylie bag that has a strap studded in diamond patterns attached to a simple suede bodice. Edgy, yet not overboard, the bag put Tylie Malibu squarely in line with irreverent Malibu style.
“When we were growing up, the coolest thing was these guys that were in Malibu,” said Izad, 29, recalling her teenage years there. “They all have tattoos and goatees and wear Ray-Ban’s Balorama [style]. They all drove F250 trucks, always black. That was heaven.”
Being the Malibu antibrand scored big for Izad. She now has 48 employees in a 3,000-square-foot Santa Monica, Calif., facility and is selling to 1,000 boutiques, including Fred Segal, Planet Blue and Intermix. She estimated 2006 sales at $8.5 million.
Of course, every Eden has its temptations. Originally shying away from department stores, Izad entered them sparingly in 2004, but built up her department store business in the last two years, with Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom carrying her brand. A standalone Tylie Malibu store is slated for the second quarter in Malibu.
The brand’s success has its detractors. At a recent Nordstrom trunk show, a Tylie Malibu aficionado accused Izad of selling out. Izad is sympathetic to the sentiment: She has been drawn to quirky, hard-to-find designers (she named jeweler Devon Paige McCleary as a favorite) that are outside the mainstream.
Izad insists she hasn’t sold out and is carefully keeping Tylie Malibu from going full-throttle into mass. She soft-launched a hand-stitched upscale line last year that retails for $600 to $900, compared with $300 to $600 for the regular line, and produces bags separately for the boutiques that have planted the seeds for her company’s growth.
Izad’s youth in Malibu might have strong allure, but she is not so territorial that she can’t let others capture a bit of the seaside community’s spirit.
“Fashion, especially as I grow older, is not about putting people on the out,” she said. “It’s just a bag, and it should make you feel good. That’s more of what I want to embrace as a company than, ‘Oh, we’re so much better than you because we have this bag.'”