Clara Kasavina's bags are like little works of art, adored by such celebs as Catherine Zeta Jones, Cat Deeley, Lake Bell, Coco Rocha, and Leslie Mann. I was overwhlemed by the intricacy and chicness of Clara Kasaniva's world when I had the chance to chat with her and photograph some of her designs.
Clara Kasavina: From my childhood, I was attracted to handbags and my feeling was that within the time my company was going to create several accessory categories, jewelry, handbags, and belts.
C: How did you get started making these gorgeous purses?
CK: My mother had a small beaded purse from 1920. I decided to reproduce my mother’s vintage purse in my first handbag collection. The collection was a line of vintage-inspired flapper purses dressed with metal and stones which was immediately successful.
C: Each one of your purses is a piece of art. All of the metal pieces are hand crafted, crystals and gems are hand sewn, and each purse has unique detailing. Where do you get your inspiration for such intricate handbags?
CK: I’m inspired by the city of my roots, St. Petersburg, Russia, by two of the beloved city’s foremost artist/designers, Erté and Fabergé, and the art deco era.
C: Your handbags were featured at an exhibit at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is a huge honor. All of your purses are one-of-a-kind, but who are some designers you admire and look to for inspiration?
CK: Alber Elbaz and Karl Lagerfeld.
C: Your husband Misha creates the metal detailing by hand for each of your purses, so how long does it typically take to complete a handbag? Which piece took the longest?
CK: Minaudieres can take over a month or longer depending on the complexity of the design.The Samira fan shape minaudiere took the longest.
C: Do you have a favorite handbag that you have created?
CK: They are all like my children, impossible to choose
Leslie Mann and Catherine Zeta Jones carrying Clara Kasavina bags. Images: Otero/WENN; C.Smith/WENN
C: Your handbags and accessories have been worn by prominent celebrities and featured in magazines. Is there a specific woman that you aim to create your pieces for?
CK: I create for a woman who wants to be noticed.
C: Being in the handbag industry brings about a lot of competition. What do you think sets you apart from other designers and what are some challenges you have faced along the way?
CK: What sets us apart from others is our hand craftsmanship attention to detail, innovative design all made in New York. The challenges are to produce in the US and keep prices affordable.
CK: Oversize clutch with a flop, exotic skins, and top handle satchels.
C: What has been your favorite thing about designing these handbags and working alongside your husband?
CK: My husband is one of the best craftsmen I know. He’s my teacher and opened up talents in me I didn’t know I had.
C: What can be expected for your collection in the coming season?
CK: The collection incorporates marquise-shaped crystals used in the geometric patterns of Erté’s Art Decoratif style; fur, mongolian lamb, and silk associated with the Russia of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1870s); pythons and leathers in jeweled tones of fall/winter — deep amethyst, emerald, wine and ruby, like the jewels with which Fabergé ornamented his enameled eggs.
C: Where are you hoping to be with your collection five years from now?
CK: I would love to have a Clara Kasavina retail shop.
C: What is some advice you could offer to aspiring designers trying to make a name for themselves and break into this industry?
C: Hard work and believe in their talent.