The fashion industry is always turning out a new trend. For the past decade, it seems handbags have constantly been on the cusp when it comes to the topic of what we want, yearn for, and absolutely must have. Since the arrival of Kate Spade’s Sam bag some years ago, there’s been this ever-turning tide of It bags which, for better or worse, have dictated the lives and purchases of women across the globe. Thankfully, it seems this time is gone. With the rise of independent designers who use quality materials under ethical production, the handbag world now has a lot more to offer than a logo and shocking sticker price. Designer Rebecca Minkoff debuts the latest edition to her collection, The Matinee, this fall and Papierdoll got a chance to catch up with her on what’s hot and what’s to come in the never ending world of bags.
What prompted you to become a bag designer?
I started designing clothing at 18 and began my handbag line with my signature Morning After Bag in 2004. My friend, Jenna Elfman, was starring in a movie a few years
ago, and she wanted me to design a bag for the film, and that’s how it began. Then, as the bag became more and more popular, I added the Morning After Mini
and the Nikki bag. The bags just took off and now I have 6 collections and about 20 different styles.
What is your philosophy for design?
I believe in the little details that make things unique, whether it is a handbag or a piece of clothing. For Spring 2008, my line is full of details, with custom hardware and some custom leathers from Italy. I want people to appreciate that these bags are handmade here in NYC and are versatile enough to fit every girl’s lifestyle.
Do you design bags with one theme in mind for the season?
I don’t usually design with just one theme in mind, but I will have an idea for a design concept of certain bags and ‘families’ of bags, and then I go from there. For example this season, I based some of my designs off of vintage leather jackets and vests; it makes the design more interesting, and reminds me of certain people or events.
What are your favorites from the fall collection?
This season it is all about ‘The Matinee’. This bag is amazing and so different than any other handbag. Its fun, and it has a little bit of attitude. The bag has two hidden pockets (zippers covered by reversible flaps) on either side, to hold all of those unmentionables.
What is your favorite leather to work with?
I love working with different kinds of leathers, but stick to what’s best for the design of the handbag, what I know will age well over time. Right now my Fall 2007 collection includes cowhide and goat from Italy. I’ve used lamb in the past as well, and when I first started my handbag line, my bags were typically canvas and leather.
Is it difficult to guess how different leathers will look (slouch, stay structured, etc.) once the bag comes to life?
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how certain leathers are going to change over time, but I have never looked back at a leather I wasn’t happy with due to quality or color. Leather can be sort of unpredictable sometimes with how the color or texture changes, which makes the bag more unique to one’s lifestyle.
How important is hardware to a bag?
Very important, I use brass because I love the aged look and it isn’t super shiny, which gives my bags that vintage feel.
What does it feel like when you see someone carrying one of your bags?
I still get excited and sometimes stop them on the street and ask them how they like their bag, and where they bought it from.
The celeb factor: blessing or curse?
Blessing. It’s cliché but true, all press is good press.
Can you tell what sort of bag a woman would like when you meet them?
The focus today isn’t on what a woman is wearing, but what bag she is carrying. I can tell from one’s personality what type of bag they would like, since my bags seem to have individual personalities that women like to and can relate to.
What is the best way to care for our bags?
Use it! Over time the leathers I use get very soft and supple, the bag becomes very comfortable. Also, polish the hardware. My hardware is 100% brass, which tarnishes. So don’t be afraid to scrub it with some brass cleaner, carefully though, as to not get it on the leather.
What do you think of the ever-booming bag market?
I think that it’s very interesting how trends change over the years, from clothing, to shoes, to jewelry, to bags. It is crazy how intense the desire is for handbags from ‘Indie’ labels such as myself. Everybody seems to want that bag that doesn’t scream designer, but is more about style and quality than the label.
Is there any room for it to grow?
I think there is always room to grow, women will always want handbags, and the need for new styles will always be around, as well as old favorites. In the near future I plan to re-launch clothing as well as shoes and expand my line into a global brand.
Do you think the bags being made in New York will grow as a selling point for your bags?
It is definitely one of our selling points, there are so many designers that are producing off shore and people place the mentality that it might be of lower quality. By producing here, I am able to see my handbags in the process and make changes accordingly.
How does it feel to be one of the few designers that keeps production local?
Having production local, like said above, allows me to work on the design concepts and samples for future seasons during the whole process and make changes when needed. Also maintaining a close relationship with my factory and production team is important.