Confession of a Bag Designer
Today marks the 10th year I've been designing handbags, and out of that 10 years I probably spent 5 years copying other people's originality and creativity. I did it not because I was lazy or incompetent but because my boss told me so.
All too often to keep up with this ever crazy schedule of delivering 8 sometimes even 12 times a year, designers are left with no time to sit down, think things through, and really create something original. Instead, we are asked to gather as many tear sheets as possible from magazines to screenshots of runway shows. Then we appropriate what's currently trending or selling well in the market and copy & paste to the next season.
When we did challenge and ask for greater creative output, we were told (1) The company can't afford to sell newness when there's no selling history to back it up. (2) It costs too much to develop newness ( time + labor = money) we can't meet our margin. (3) I like what Valentino and Celine are doing, just give me that.
Okaaaay, I'll give you that but you'll lose your brand identity in the long run, and that loyal customer base will truly become a mythical lore from a bygone era. Think about it, customers who purchase derivatives of other brands most likely are bargain shoppers, whose purchasing behavior will never EVER be based on how your brand is and what you have to offer.
If they are not willing to save up for a real Chanel bag, but spend days and months hunting for a fake Chanel or a Chanel look-a-like, chances are they are driven only by discounts and sales and nothing more. Not your design, not the level of thoughts in the design, or your brand vision...
Maybe this is the reason why I have not purchased one single bag off the market since I turned 23. Not even one because they all look the same to me when you cover up the logo plaque.
I have walked away from 2 jobs whose concept illustrations are boards of pasted Celine and Givenchy tear sheets, and specs are nothing more than screenshots of other people's bags, featured on magazines with red arrows written by us indicating the changes. I tried but it's just not my goal to become a knock-off queen.
The saddest part is some designers, even at the directorial level, can no longer conceptualize and draw ( neither by hand or computer or by their mind palace) something beyond what has been done. Their vision and creativity are simply gone after seasons worth of copying and pasting.
All that being said, can you imagine my surprise when Femme De Cupcakes came and told me they wanted bags that are original, cool, and really exude the essence of a cupcake girl.
Really, really really? It's so shocking I have to say it 3 times.
Next thing I knew, we went through 7 rounds of creative discussion to consolidate and finalize each bag style, its color ways, and many of its unique technical and design features I've been DYING to do. From lining, canvas print, to style design, each and every one was painstakingly created to execute the brand vision of Femme De Cupcakes, not Chanel or Marc Jacobs.
From packaging to handbags, small leather goods, hardware, print, and jewelry design; the level of effort put into each category is truly thoughtful and sweet. Did I also mention that we are working our hardest to make it affordable as well!
I guess it's a matter of taste but I know whose bag I'd be buying in Spring 2017.