If you spot a cute clutch in the hands of stylish stars like Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift or Reese Witherspoon, chances are it’s from designer Lauren Merkin. What makes her style so appealing? We recently sat down with her to find out. Read on to find out how she got inspired to launch her line.
Q: How did you get started in the fashion business? Was it always your goal to design a handbag-and-accessories line?
A: Starting a fashion business was a bit of an accident, actually. I had recently gotten my MBA and was job-searching. In my spare time I got back to sewing, which had been an on-and-off hobby since I was a kid. On a whim I decided to create a tote, and the next thing I knew, a boutique on my street wanted to order and friends were asking for them as well. I decided to seize the opportunity and go for it! I found a factory to produce leather samples of my bags and started going door to door around NYC. The response was overwhelming, and before I knew it, my clutches were on the shelves at Bergdorf Goodman.
Q: Many celebs carry your accessories — any big names that you have been particularly excited about?
A: It’s always exciting for me to see my bags being worn out in the real world, regardless if it’s by a celebrity or not. But I admit there have been some really fun celeb sightings. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker carry my clutch on “Sex and the City” was huge! It was about six months into my business and a total surprise, so I was thrilled!
Q: You sometimes create custom bags before major red-carpet events. What’s the process like? How does it feel to wait and see if your clutch will show up on the red carpet?
A: From time to time we create one-of-a-kind bags for major events like the Oscars. It’s a fun process, because it allows us to work with specialty fabrics and embellishments as well as vintage fabrics that we normally cannot work with since the fabric is so limited and only a few can be made.
I’m always anxious to see all of the red-carpet outfits, but it’s fun to watch whether or not someone carries my bags. Obviously, I love the moment I spot one of clutches, especially because it’s so interesting to see how the person’s whole outfit comes together.
Q: What was one of the most exciting red-carpet moments for you and your brand?
A: There have been a lot of really exciting red-carpet moments, but I think seeing Diane Lane carry one of my clutches at the Oscars last year was one of the best! I am a huge fan of hers, and she really looked elegant.
Q: How do you decide on the name for each bag? Do you think of each one as having its own personality?
A: We definitely think each bag has a personality and always try to pick a name that we feel suits the bag. While friends are always asking for bags to be named after them, only one bag is named for someone I know — my mom, Diana.
Q: Besides your most coveted clutch, what is another must-have shape from your collections?
A: Right now, one of our best-selling bags is the Paige Duffel — it has a very ladylike look.
Q: Out of all the bags you have created, which is your favorite, and why?
A: I can’t play favorites — I love them all!
Q: Can you tell us more about your personalized bags?
A: Soon you’ll be able to select all the options online first and actually see how the bag will look before you buy. Customers can have their initials embroidered on the interior in the thread color of their choice. They can also choose from a range of exclusive metallics and satins. We probably see these purchased most often for weddings, either for the bride or as bridesmaid gifts.
Q: Is there one trend in particular you’re dying to tap into?
A: No, trends come and go — classic is forever.
Q: Besides handbags and small leather goods, do you see yourself expanding into other types of products?
A: At some point, I would love to design shoes. My love of shoes actually surpasses handbags, yet I do not find many brands that I cannot live without. Our shoe collection would certainly focus on the same accessible luxury we have created with handbags.
Another passion of mine is furniture — it would be a great experience to create a home collection someday!
Q: What are three styles of handbags that every woman should own, and why?
A: I think every woman should own one practical tote for work that can carry all your essentials. A smaller day bag, perhaps a cross-body, is great for weekends and travel. Finally, a clutch is a must in every woman’s wardrobe!
See celebs rocking Lauren Merkin clutches, and find out what the designer has to say about them, on All the Looks.