About six months ago I was invited to a Brahmin event to work with members of their design team to create a blogger "dream" collection. There were about 12 bloggers and online editors at the event so we were split into smaller groups, paired with a designer, and asked to come up with two handbag designs. After the event, the designers went back to Brahmin's headquarters to bring our ideas to life and, in the end, handbags from two of the teams were selected and are now available for purchase. I was super psyched that the handbags my team came up with were picked. We were quite a contentious team and had a lot of back and forth; luckily, we were paired with a very talented senior designer, Lauren Doyle, who helped bring us on the same page. Doyle and I hit it off immediately, bonding over a love of fanny packs and a commitment to coming up with a practical, but original design (the trio of bags featured above and below are those from our team).
It was interesting to speak firsthand with a handbag designer about the design process. My biggest issue with bags today is that they are often ridiculously heavy and through this workshop I learned how challenging it is, in fact, for a bag NOT to be heavy once you add in even the smallest design elements. I also thought it was great that, despite Brahmin not being a brand I would typically opt to buy, we were able to come up with designs that stayed true to the brand, but held high appeal for all the bloggers in the group (and hopefully buyers!) as well.
After the unveiling, I had some more time to speak with Doyle and she had so many wonderful insights — from vintage shopping to must-have bags for the season — that I was glad she was able to carve out extra time to chat about those and more.
The Fashion Spot: As a professional designer, was it a little annoying to have to sit down with a bunch of writers who have no experience designing? You can be honest!
Lauren Doyle: Absolutely not! As a designer, I tend to be slightly jaded as to what actual consumers, especially ones who are so heavily involved with what's going on in the fashion world, actually think about when purchasing a new bag. Getting to hear fresh perspectives was invigorating and super educational to say the least.
tFS: What are some of the concerns you hear often?
LD: Yes, aside from the overall aesthetic of the bag, function seemed to be high up on everyone's list of priorities. Details like strap specifics and pockets were high up on the list of concerns that I hear about on a daily basis.
tFS: Can you explain some of the things that people might not understand?
LD: Sure. Weight is a big one. Most people never think about the inside makings of a bag, but fillers can add a lot of extra weight to a bag. Certain fillers are necessary for different bag constructions. Although these types of hidden materials are not recognizable in the overall first glance of a bag they are certainly necessary in the bag's overall finished look and durability.
tFS: How do the bags that make up the Dream Collection compare to Brahmin's other current offerings?
LD: I tried to keep it true to Brahmins DNA, classic and timeless, but switched it up a bit by using one of my favorite natural vegetable tanned leathers for the body of the bag, and Brahmin's signature croco embossed leather for the accent. In Brahmin's main collections, it would be the opposite. Natural vegetable tanned leather is my favorite because it tends to wear like a great pair of jeans. The more you wear it (and it does show use) the more you love it!
tFS: How did you decide on the three accent colors?
LD: All of the writers in my group had strong feelings toward a fun pop of color, either through an interesting exotic leather or version of our classic croco. Fluorescent colors are hot this summer, so staying true to our classic look I decided to use trend-right colors in the brightest hues I could get without going completely neon.
tFS: How did you decided on the size of each of the bags?
LD: For the top handle satchel, I tried to make it large enough to fit an IPAD and all the daily essentials, but slim enough where you couldn't be tempted to throw everything you own in it. I went for the same function in the convertible clutch, but kept it small enough were you could hold it comfortably without the strap or throw it in your day tote if needed. Wearablility and function were most important.
tFS: With classic bags being so popular right now, are you noticing that Brahmin's demographic is expanding?
LD: Absolutely! Classic investment pieces are really popular right now on the runways. I think people want to spend money on quality timeless pieces. Since Brahmin has always been known for just that, we have been able to keep our middle aged customer and have pleasantly grown into a younger more fashion focused one. Our customer has always shown a strong dedication to our brand and is continuously impressed with the quality and classic appeal for such a reasonable price.
tFS: You seem to be coming out with some quirkier designs. Can you single out some of your favorites?
LD: I would have to say our most recent polka dot printed hair-calf made up in super traditional lady-bags is a strong favorite.
tFS: Do you find yourself inspired by the RTW trends? If so, which collections do you follow most closely?
LD: I am constantly inspired by Lanvin. Their nod to feminine vintage styling and beautiful attention to every detail possible is constantly inspiring. Celine and Fendi would have to be next.
tFS: Where, aside from fashion shows, do you go to get inspired? Can you tell us about some of your travels?
LD: Vintage shopping would have to be my number one pick for inspiration. Interior design is also a passion of mine which is constantly inspiring me for an unusual print or color palette choice.
tFS: Do you only wear Brahmin bags?
LD: Yes. Although there are many designer obsessions, I only stray for vintage!
tFS: Can you tell us about any bags that you designed that never made it into production that you wish had?
LD: There are too many to count. Sometimes, my favorites get nixed due to department store constraints, but more recently, our own retail stores and web business have helped lighten that load. Brahmin has the huge benefit of having our manufacturing and design headquarters based in the U.S. which allows us to produce some of our inventory right here. With those two avenues growing, we are able to push smaller boutique collections through.
tFS: What do you consider the must-have styles for Spring 2012?
LD: Ladylike bags in fun pops of color, crossbody bags with tons of function, slim envelope clutches, simple luxe large totes, and anything color blocked to say a few.
tFS: Since you design the bags that are out now so many month ahead of time, can you give us some insight into what you're working on now?
LD: Right now we are wrapping up holiday 2012 and beginning Spring 2013, all while patiently awaiting the Fall 2012 runway shows to begin!
tFS: What are some things people, no matter the style, should always look for when shopping for a handbag?
LD: Durability, timeless appeal, function for sure.
tFS: Given that you've traveled extensively, can you tell us about some of your favorite places to shop?
LD: There are some great vintage stores in Paris and Florence that I frequent while on business trips. Clignancourt Flea market in Paris is high on the list. A local New England favorite close to home is Circa Vintagewear. The owner Chris and I good friends so he calls me as soon as anything unusual comes in. Although I love to shop all of the couture streets like Via della Spiga in Milan, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, or Bond Street in London, I am more partial to veering off path to the the more obscure local boutiques and vintage stores wherever I may be.