From the beginning....
Often I get the question how I came up with starting to design handbags and actually build it to the brand it has become today.
It was in 2003, a few years after I arrived in Cape Town that suddenly here and there in the city bowl color dyed springbok skins started popping up. From handbags to cushions and lots of other interior stuff - which made me think: wow, this surely doesn’t exist in Europe yet. It seemed similar to the pictures I had in mind from African curio stands to the pictures of our house - it was always a world of two in one and I thought that with these original skins I could bring the two together in my own way.
There was a touch of Africa in our living room. Never too much, but also not absent. A few calabashes on the wall, the odd mask, the little snake skin purse. Spots here and there. And whatever African piece my sister and I had on us, our feet were always put into Bally sandals. We would travel to Switzerland once a year and would get the same shoe in a different size. Over and over again. Year after year. But back to the skins. Yes, they caught my eye and left me thinking that their edgy look could bring a little piece of Africa to Europe but in a super cool way.
I’m always fairly good at having ideas and even better at chickening out and never pulling them through - who wants to risk failure anyway. Not this time. My hubby didn’t let go and offered his support.
So the search began. We found a leather supplier and bought 40 springbok skins in all different kinds of colors. The supplier put us in contact with a handbag producing factory. An aquaintance I will never forget. Sitting in front of the manager of the company. The lady looking at me, asking questions like “what fittings would you like”, “what slings should the bag get”, “what color lining” – I went blank. Completely blank. Felt a bit like my final exam in accounting to be honest. Numbers, no sense. Words, no sense. We finally left, me completely disillusioned and empty. Today I see it as a blessing. Ignorance is bliss. It makes you do things that you would never have started if you would have known what was coming. There were the skins, the money was spent and a plan had to be made. And so a wonderful trip started, along which I have met so many special people that all helped me at the right moment in time – thank you angels! I got wonderful advice, great inputs and solutions to problems. Learnt how fabric is designed and produced with print screen method, learnt all the things that can go wrong when you dye up cotton slings, learnt about jobs like fittings manager of which I never even knew existed and how different a bag appears when you change little details like edging, or the color or thickness of thread. A dear friend taught me how to look at fashion magazines from a different angle - a very important lesson. It was and still is a wonderful journey through this city which I love so much. Always taking me to new corners of town exploring.
As soon as the first bags were made as I imagined, a friend of ours who wanted to get back into the fashion industry offered to act as our distributor in Europe. Six months down the line he asked me for my new collection…… a considerable history of design fails was to follow… but that shall be a blog post of it’s own.