Runway News

Designer to Watch: Horse+Nail Handbags, Handmade in NYC

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Founded in 2009 by designer Lindsey Hufnagel, Horse+Nail was started as an alternative to fast fashion – everything is handmade in downtown New York City. While it's hard to not think of Gucci immediately when seeing a horse bit — an element prominently featured in the Horse+Nail lineup — stars like Scarlett Johansson don't seem to mind (in fact, the star bought her H+N bag at the full retail price, a rarity for a celebrity). Feathers, fringe and fur are also prominently featured in the line-up of mostly leather bags. Prices range from $300 to $1000.

We spoke with Hufnagel to find out more about how the brand got its start and why keeping everything handmade is so critical.

theFashionSpot: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Lindsey Hufnagel: I was originally a menswear and costume designer, but always had a passion for women’s eveningwear. “Make believe” and “fantasy” is what has always kept my blood pumping. Designers such as Margiela, Gaultier and McQueen are amongst my favorites. I'm passionate and inspired by dark, mysterious silhouettes. I always thrive to make a statement when it comes to designing. I feel it’s important to stick out from the norm and to steer clear from the current trends in order to make your own imprint in this grand world of fashion.

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tFS: What made you decide to start your own label given your success as a costume designer?

LH: Between working in costume design and styling shoots here and there, I spent my free time making bags. I especially enjoyed working with leather. Friends started to notice and as I made more and more bags for them, I decided I could start my own line based on my own aesthetic.

tFS: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of starting your brand?

LH: With little experience in the world of handbags, it has definitely been a learning experience. I feel like I'm still building my brand. Developing a high quality product has been my main focus on top of providing an aesthetically unassuming handbag that deviates from the norm.

tFS: Where did the name come from?

LH: One of my first designs started from a unique bit; I developed an alternative way to use the hackamore bridle (horse bit) as a shoulder piece for a handbag; I call it The Scout and it's one of my signature pieces. Furthermore, my last name in German means “Horseshoe Nail” (I learned that in the 4th grade when I had a German substitute in class). Horse+Nail was a good alternative to using my actual name while coinciding with the concept of the brand.

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tFS: Can you tell us about some of the celebs that have worn your designs and how those opportunities came about?

LH: A friend of mine who regularly wears my designs is a celebrity makeup artist. Her client list includes Mary Louise Parker, Brooke Shields and many more beautiful women. Mary Louise Parker loved H+N so much that she wore her very own H+N bag through the final season of WEEDS. That was definitely an honor. Also, Scarlett Johannson bought her H+N bag at The Cast, an amazing leather boutique in the LES across the street from my design studio.

tFS: What are some of the biggest challenges with running a small fashion business?

LH: My biggest challenge is in the everyday. There are many obstacles when it comes to running your own company. The trick is to not let them bring you down, but to help you grow stronger and wiser. It isn’t supposed to be easy, but looking at the bigger picture helps it stay fun and full of passion and that’s really the purpose.

tFS: In keeping with that, what do you do when you're stressed?

LH: When I am stressed, I like to listen to music. I love the Oldies. I can sing along and it usually brings me into a calming mood, then I am able to concentrate on the task at hand. Whiskey works just as well.

tFS: Why is everything being handmade so critical for you?

LH: I value the idea of owning something different and special. I think a handbag can be such an important reflection of our individual expression and personality. I want to make sure my customer gets her “personality” in her bag. It also allows my customer to really connect and appreciate his/her handbag. As my company grows in the wholesale market, I want to be sure to always focus on the custom handbag aspect of my brand.

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tFS: Can you tell us a little bit about the process from idea to actual bag?

LH: I start sketching, going off from one idea to another until I end up with a design or two that I’m happy with. Then I go from there. I also keep in mind the words “Dramatic,” “Statement,” “Different” and “Bold” in hopes of not falling short of creativity and landing in the pool of sameness.  

tFS: What do you do when you're looking to get inspired for your designs?

LH: I love to people watch. New York City street style is always so inspiring. I admire what people wear and how they wear it. I think about which Horse+Nail bag is most suitable for this individual’s look. If none comes to mind, I think of something that would and this brings me to new ideas, and so on. I always catch myself staring.

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