New York–This week’s challenge was voyeuristic, intimate and super-personal. No, they didn’t transcribe client therapy sessions or rummage through their medicine cabinets. This was worse: they went into their handbags.
Now, my husband wouldn’t so much as venture into my bag to get a pen (even if it was an Epi-Pen and he was in anaphylactic shock), so it was a bit unnerving to see the contents of women’s handbags dumped into plastic bins and presented to strangers. I practically had to look away.
But it was exciting to see a handbag challenge. Molly Sims quoted that the average woman has six handbags, so it drove home the point that handbags are very personal and fulfill specific needs.
Designers had to create a handbag to fit all the contents in the bag, and also fit the personal(ity) style of their respective client. Meetings ensued, with Brian making a big to do about how he doesn’t care what his client thinks and is only concerned with pleasing himself. Nice.
Halfway though the show, designers got The Twist: create an additional accessory made from the parts of their client’s own handbag.
Guest judges Rebecca Minkoff and Kara Ross–two of my favorite designers–offered valuable advice about proportion, saleability (remember that?) and scale. After celebrity judges like Debra Messing and Kelly Osbourne, it was nice to have guest judges who actually know how to design.
I would have liked to see more–well, anything–on the interiors of the bags, because as we all know, a bag without a cell phone holder should be in a museum next to an Atari computer playing Pong. But the designers only had one day to make a bag (and we only have one hour to view the whole show) so it’s all very quick-quick.
Shea was the only one who had to create a laptop bag for an 11” x 15” Mac (which probably should have been a separate challenge since tech accessories are super-hot right now), but she still missed the mark. Her clunky East/West design overwhelmed her petite client and Kara Ross was spot-on when she said this was the only time a handbag ever made anyone look fat. Ouch. Take a geography class, Shea, and set that compass to North/South.
Nina is a jewelry designer and it showed. She applied hand-hammered metal sheets to the sides (aka gusset) and also used a coordinating charm-like closure and chain strap. The only miss was the raw-edged key-hole opening in the leather flap, which clashed a bit with the more refined styling of the bag.
Rich is also a jewelry designer, albeit an edgy one, but he squandered any opportunity to show it. His bag had no hardware at all, and the construction was shoddy. Despite being a self-proclaimed “man of fire and metal,” he made what looked like an army canteen bag trying to be fashionable. Weird.
Adrian, the church hat designer from Atlanta, took his usual colorful approach to this challenge, using striped fabric. I think he should have swapped clients with Shea, as his oversized clutch would have made a dramatic laptop case. I always look forward to seeing What Adrian comes up with.
Brian has some sort of Mad Max, post-apocalyptic aesthetic that the judges seem to love but I don’t totally get. He is consistent though. This dark brown bag didn’t go far enough, however, and screamed for some burnished hardware. The tan woven cuff was a disconnect.
Christina’s bag was pretty. Pretty ho-hum. A tote with scarf-inspired knotted straps? Ok. Show me something that’s not already in my closet (remember, we all have six bags, right?). The necklace, which looked made from a handbag handle, was more interesting.
Shocker! Diego, the handbag designer, produced an impeccably crafted handbag! Complete with contrast skins, tassels and metal feet for stability, it was nothing we haven’t seen in numerous upscale boutiques, but it deserved the win. You try to make a bag like that in one day!
James got let go for three reasons. One, he didn’t make the required accompanying accessory piece; two, his bulbous bag was ill-proportioned (a thicker, or even a second braided strap would have added some balance); and three, his flat personality just didn’t add as much TV drama as Rich’s.
Sorry Rich… you squeaked by on this one. We’ll get you back in the metal forging room soon enough!
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Lauren Parker is the editor of Accessories Magazine.