News & Runway

Laura Brachfeld of Brachfeld Parlaghy Handbags: A tFS Exclusive Interview

Brachfeld Parlaghy, recently launched by designer Laura Brachfeld, is a new line of easy-to-wear, chic, utilitarian handbags complete with beautifully crafted straps, buckles, zippers, and pockets.

The line just hit, and a number of styles are already selling out fast. The line is crafted with an exceptional attention to detail. All of the hardware is custom-made.

We spoke to Brachfeld about how her background in sculpture has affected her aesthetic, how growing up in New York City has played a role when approaching her business, and more…


The Fashion Spot: What is it about handbag design that you find so alluring?

Laura Brachfeld: I studied art in college, and my major was sculpture, so I was initially drawn to the fact that handbag design is a 3-dimensional process.

It’s a form of fashion that I can immediately relate to: handbags are like wearable sculptures. There is a deeper meaning to a handbag than just something to hold your wallet in. People carry around their lives in it every day. It’s their portable home, and therefore very personal.

There has to be utility and comfort in the design.  The way someone feels when wearing one of my designs is of the utmost importance to me – I want them to feel strong, individual, and courageous. I’m the most confident when I wear 5-inch tall platform boots, and I design my bags with that feeling in mind.

tFS: How have your travels affected your design aesthetic?

LB: Traveling has had an enormous influence on my design aesthetic! I used to travel to Asia four to five times a year. I’ve probably been to Hong Kong about twenty times. I love how Hong Kong is a mix of Asian and Western cultures. It’s very modern, but with such a rich history.

In Tokyo, the way everyone dresses is so creative, individual, and courageous. They combine pieces of clothing, accessories, and colors in the most unexpected, and sometimes shocking ways.  Also, I love how all of the men there carry bags – they’re not afraid!  My trips to Paris have been a constant inspiration, and I always think of the effortless casual elegance of Parisian women whenever I’m designing. Since I have a strong rebellious side, I am especially fond of London for its infamous punk and skinhead vibe, and for the free-spiritedness and eccentricity that it’s known for.

tFS: How has growing up in New York influenced your approach to design? Your approach to business?

LB: Growing up in New York and attending a private school here definitely made me hyper-aware of trends and what everyone else was wearing. There was fierce competition as to who had the best leather jacket, shoes, or even highlights in their hair!

From a very young age, I quickly learned about the quality of materials, and how to differentiate great design from bad or just mediocre. In this city, mediocrity doesn’t cut it! Knowing this, my approach to design and to business is to be passionate, to persevere, and to constantly overachieve. I do what I believe is true to myself, my design aesthetic, and my brand, not to what anyone else’s idea is, or what they think it should be. In order to stand out in New York, you need to be an original.

tFS: What are your favorite materials to work with?

LB: My favorite leathers are washed, bubbled, or glazed lambskin, and washed goatskin – all from Spain and Italy. I always incorporate custom-made hardware I’ve designed, inspired by industrial and vintage findings from my travels. It’s essential that the materials look luxe.

tFS: What kind of woman do you have in mind when you’re designing?

LB: Bold, strong, sexy, edgy, confident, creative, original, and chic.

tFS: If you could name one celebrity that you’d love to see wearing one of your designs, who would it be?

LB: Daphne Guinness – she’s a true fashion icon. I really admire the strength and artistry in her style. There is an intellectual, cultured feeling to the way she puts everything together that speaks to both history and the future.

tFS: What’s the most memorable piece you’ve ever designed?

LB: There are quite a few that I hold dear to my heart, but I have a feeling the MOST memorable is going to be this really detailed satchel I designed for my next collection. It has horsewhip braided trim and futuristic quilting.

tFS: If we were to look through your handbag, what would we find?

LB: My really cool wrinkled leather wallet that I bought at AllSaints in London, my "crackberry," a ballpoint pen, Purel, Ipod, Lipfusion lip gloss in Glow, Alpina vintage aviators, and the Buddhist prayer beads I bought in India with my husband.

tFS: What are the essential handbag styles and corresponding colors from your line that you think every woman should own?

LB: "Astrid" in black washed lambskin with black hardware is the essential urban bag. It has three large front pockets that fit everything. There is great detail in the trims and custom hardware.

"Carla" in soft grey snake-effect Italian leather because it’s edgy, but feminine and luxe-looking. This medium satchel is the perfect size to carry around the city all day, and the studded shoulder strap is conveniently detachable.

"Pilar" in grey is made with this really gorgeous lightweight washed leather I found in Spain. It’s a pretty dove-like shade that you can wear year-round. It’s also the most comfortable hobo I’ve ever worn, because of the soft leather padding at the top of the chain shoulder strap.

Last, but not least, "Philippa" in black is that small crossbody you grab when you want to be hands-free. It has an adjustable leather and chain crossbody strap, and a utilitarian messenger flap detailed with straps and buckles.