Category Archives: handbags

Hidden Baby: Helping babies one handbag at a time

I met sisters Kelsey and Courtney Montague back in August while they were in town spreading the word about Hidden Baby, their charitable accessories line. Quite the world travelers, the sisters have explored Kenya, and were inspired to help children in need both here in the United States and worldwide through their company.

While their bags are what started the company, the sisters have branched out into putting their designs shoes, scarves, and bracelets. I’ve been using the Iris Bag they generously gave me, and I must say it’s the perfect size for my laptop, wallet, and daily essentials. With each purchase you make, Hidden Baby helps children around the world by donating a portion of their profits to organizations that are helping give the next generation a chance. They are currently helping fund Baby Space, a Minnesota based group providing successful learning environments for babies in need.

With their work in Kenya, the sisters witnessed strife yet documented people working to provide safe havens for orphaned babies. Sadly, upon arriving home to the United States they realized similar situations occur here- malnutrition and neglect are indeed a global issue. That’s why a portion of the profits are donated to organizations around the world to give the next generation a chance. Purchase your own bag or accessories of choice today from Hidden Baby, and feel good about looking good and helping others.

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Designer Interview: Lia Cinquegrano of Thomas IV

Text by Meghan Wright

I had the fantastic pleasure of interviewing Lia Cinquegrano, the creator and designer of handbag line Thomas IV. The Florida native (now in Brooklyn) has an interesting design aesthetic and makes wonderful use of different fabrics, textures, and patterns.

Photo c/o Thomas IV
 – Where did you get the name “Thomas IV?”

I usurped the family first name. My brother is Thomas Cinquegrano III, so I stole Thomas IV and passed it down to my handbag line

– I love your mixture of bold prints, colors and fabrics. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes for the idea of using inherently colorful materials with little to no hardware. I use fabrics from Guatemala and India as well as recognizable graphic patterns like houndstooth. I like for all of the bags to be very relaxed, casual and quirky. They are a true reflection of my personality and represent how I feel about fashion. I do not take fashion seriously. I think all design should be clever and have a sense of humor. I am attracted to colors and patterns and mixed media. I wanted the bags to feel like they have a personality of their own and make a statement.

Photo c/o Thomas IV

– Why do you think it is more beneficial to you as a designer and to your product to have all of your pieces made locally? 
As a small and young designer who studied fashion design, I believe using the industry available in my home-city is super important.  I want to have a relationship with the people executing my designs. I want to be able to oversee the process any day of the week. I want to explain my ideas face to face with the technicians and I want to support my local economy and the industry that is available for people like me. I need to use factories that support small designers and are willing to forfeit high minimums. Using these factories benefits me because I am gaining a real hands-on education which in turn helps with my design process. When I can see how something is made and understand the possibilities of manufacturing, I can better design a product.

– Where did you get your start, and why did you choose to design bags? 

I studied fashion design at Rhode Island School of Design. I graduated in 2005 and moved to NYC in 2006. When I moved here I began working for womenswear designer Nanette Lepore designing clothes. I still work for her designing clothing, shoes and handbags. She manufactures 80% of her garments within a 5-block radius of her west 35th st. design studio. I used to walk to each factory to oversee the production of her sample garments. I gained an appreciation for the garment industry in New York which is why I am happy to use local manufacturers as well.

About 2 years ago I was fortunate enough to have access to a giant studio space in a former Catholic elementary school in Brooklyn.  Each classroom was rented out to artists, mostly RISD grads, who used the space as studios. When I first rented my studio I was not sure what I wanted to make. In addition to working for Nanette, I also had side projects designing costumes for music videos and theater, but having the studio space meant I had to find my own outlet. I had no boss or director or collaborator. I wanted to flush out my own design ideas so I started by patching together old printed leather jackets and turning them into bags. Then I started making silhouettes from scratch trying to come up w/ innovative ways to incorporate the functional elements of a handbag into the design with out using a lot of metal. For example, a bag must have a handle or a strap, it has to close and those elements have to be working together in a harmonious way so I tried to really think about signature ways to attach a strap or make an interesting closure. For Spring 2011 I made my first collection which consisted of 3 styles. I took photos of the samples at my brother’s loft and started sending my look book out to buyers. Barneys Co-op and Steven Alan picked up the line. I have now just designed my 4th collection for Fall 2012.
Photo c/o Thomas IV

– Do you have any advice for anyone who aspires to be a designer or work in the fashion industry?
I think it is important to honestly represent yourself. If you design something that you think is great and it is accurate representation of yourself and your personality than you have a recipe for success. I think it is important to recognize design gaps in the industry and fill them naturally with your ideas. I am still learning so much myself. I think quality control is extremely important as well as research within design and technical execution. I think it is important to spend time developing your ideas and testing them out before releasing them.

All photos are from Thomas IV’s Fall 2012 collection. 
Lia’s blog: Phuck Fashion
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New Year, New You, To Heck With Everyone Else

Technically it’s winter, but damn it’s hot in the south. Instead of being enrobed in a goose down cocoon every night I’ve been sleeping with the windows wide open. Just kidding, I’m too afraid that my cats will jump onto my roof to open the windows but you get the idea. Instead we are experiencing something more akin to a spring renewal, which I guess is appropriate for New Year’s resolutions. Lately I’ve been inspired by Advanced Style, the fashion blog with a focus on exquisitely dressed women in their 60s-100s. I’m having a “to hell with everyone else” moment, just wearing whatever I want and not caring about what others think. It’s quite liberating, and I highly recommend it.

To help you get a jump start on jumping the “I dress for myself” ship I rounded up a few recent favorites that I’ve stumbled upon.

I’m deathly afraid of the eye doctor, so getting new glasses is a real ordeal. In 2011 I broke down and had an eye exam and lived to tell about it, so this year I might do it again. These Oliver Peoples frames at St. Charles Vision would be a great second pair of frames for me, that is if I get the guts to go.

I can’t help but notice a lot of art deco designs, especially in jewelry for next spring. Why not get a jump start on the trend with this Lulu Frost for J. Crew art deco bangle. I love how classy this design is, especially in white. Not that I’ve ever claimed to be a classy broad, but still I’d wear the heck out of this bangle.
Image 1 of ASOS Slot Through Portfolio Clutch
Oversized day clutches are one trend that gained momentum last spring and are still going strong.  This ASOS portfolio clutch is super sleek, and the blush color keeps it feminine while the gold metal hardware keeps it from being too twee.

I definitely know my favorite dress when I see it, and this color block dress from Urban Outfitters is certainly my dress shape of choice. A strapless, fitted bodice with a pleated and slightly flared skirt? Yup, that’s all me baby. When you’ve got a good thing going, why mess it up? Find what’s flattering and roll with it, make it your signature look!

I always have trouble finding my iPhone in the bowels of my purse. This leopard print Rebecca Minkoff phone cover lends a fun factor and is bright enough to spot from a mile away, or at least an arms length.

Committed to giving yourself a refresh for 2012? I’m giving away a free closet overhaul session to one lucky lady. Read the giveaway post here to learn how to win but hurry, you only have until Friday the 13th to enter.

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Fall Favorites For Friday

This week’s fall favorites were inspired by a Slow Southern Styling client that needed to up the ante when it came to her daily work bag. She needed something stylish yet big enough to schlep her laptop, paperwork, and other daily essentials in when she is mobile.  These are big enough to carry it all and will take you from the desk to happy hour or school to your favorite coffee shop all while maintaining a sense of style.

This Split bag fits a laptop but keeps it fun in floral
Love the hardware on this Fiorelli via ASOS
Diesel herringbone laptop bag would be great for  guys or girls

I love the richness of this Fossil Re-issue vintage messenger

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Cats Out The Bag

Cheryl’s Etsy shop, Hot Tin Roof New Orleans, shares a name with Tennessee Williams’ infamous play.  Her bags are perfect for the modern southern belle, even though she’s a Canadian transplant.

You’re obviously influenced by the south and I love your shop’s name. How does New Orleans make its way into your designs?
 I came up with the name before I moved here. I was still working in Toronto and travelling to New Orleans whenever I could. The name really described a certain element of the lifestyle here, a certain edgy existence. Most of the people I was meeting at that time not only lived life on the edge but embraced it; in fact, they chose it over more comfortable ways of life.

1950s Vintage Style Handbag STELLA Amy Butler 1950s style handbag

You’ve worked in theater, movies, and television and have a degree in fine arts. How does your background effect your handbag line?
I think it affects all of the work that I do profoundly, for better or for worse.  I’ve been conditioned to think architecturally and mechanically. This is only one way to think and really, it’s kind of stuck in the post-modern, form-follows-function genre.  I am truly happiest when I can make something that is visually appealing but also practical. There is a certain poetry in that for me.  Secondly, I think a sound background in Liberal Arts gives one an inkling of movements in history, certainly a sense of the evolution of style and the link that exists between the way we think and the way we dress ourselves.

Clutch Purse HARLEQUIN Domino Harlequin clutch purse

You mentioned to me that you’ve slowed down your work load to focus on your craft. Was this something you’ve been trying to do for a while?
Certainly it’s been a fantasy! I’ve worked creatively all my life but always for someone else. Now it’s on me! Thanks to entities like Etsy, online boutiques and blogs like this one, craft has become a viable way of life for a lot of talented people. That having been said, I’ve never worked harder in my life!

Reversible Mini Tote Bag MELANIE Stripe Reversible mini tote

What other hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not designing?
This is going to sound crazy but…I really love to sew. My dear friend Laura is a costume designer, the brains behind “Royal Rags” in the French Quarter. She generously lets me sew for her. She does all the design and cutting and I am free to just sit and joyfully sew along without a care in the world! Bliss. I am also a pathological knitter and am going to add some little knitted items in luxury yarns to my shop this fall. I love classic films. I am completely devoted to Turner Classic Movies (Miss Laura calls it “the costume channel).  It’s on in the workroom all day and all night.

Carpet Bag LEAH Amy Butler Nigella Primrose Pewter Primrose Pewter carpet bag

Define southern style
Ooooh! What a vexed question!  As a Canadian, I’m not even sure I’m qualified to answer but I do have a few observations. There is an element of gentility to southern style, a sort of antique gentility that comes from being unabashedly feminine, even when it comes to t-shirts and jeans.
I think glamour is still very much alive here in New Orleans and the mystery that creates glamour. Though we schlep around in shorts and flip flops almost all year-round, there is hardly a closet in New Orleans that doesn’t contain at least one feather boa and a pair of elbow length gloves!  I find autumn in New Orleans very puzzling, though. The weather is still scorching hot, yet we should have put away all of our cool fluttery florals and white clothing and shoes.

Pick up your own bag at Hot Tin Roof New Orleans.

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