Known for its whimsical handbag shapes and motifs (fruit clutch, anyone?) as well as heavily beaded designs, Mary Frances handbags have always a strong signature look. However, for its 25th anniversary this year, the company is expanding into more contemporary designs to offer existing and new customers a new approach.
Mary Frances has numerous accolades as well. The company has twice been named as one of America’s fastest-growing, privately-owned companies by INC. Magazine and Mary Frances received the Accessory Designer of the Year award at the Dallas Fashion Awards. In addition, Mary Frances was acknowledged as “star of the show” during Paris fashion week for two consecutive years, and recently received the prestigious Best Design award in Milan for her 2013 and 2014 collections.
Accessories caught up with Mary Frances to discuss the company’s past, present and future.
How long have you been with the company?
Being the founder of Mary Frances Accessories, I am truly the story of a woman who wanted to wake up and do something dynamic each day. I was working on an opposing side of the industry, in a corporate setting. Wanting a creative outlet, I began designing costume jewelry and embellished handbags and accessories. Without any warning, it took off.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day involves a constant interplay between my right and left brain. I derive just as much pleasure from being a businesswoman as designing a beautiful handbag. It’s equally as important for me to be accessible throughout the day and a launchpad for employees, new designs and business endeavors.
What is your favorite part of this industry?
I love that the industry is ever-changing and so dynamic. On a daily basis I have the opportunity to wake up with an idea or vision, and then translate it into a product that sparks a feeling and appreciation for the end consumer. I also really love all the people that I get to meet through different aspects of the fashion industry.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in the market lately?
One of the biggest challenges currently is the unpredictability of the consumer. With such a global market at our gals’ fingertips, it’s hard to pinpoint where she’s buying and what she’s buying. There are so many accessible tiers of retail opportunities: Large department stores, small boutiques, online retailers, flash sale sites and so on. The challenge is to track what avenues work for your brand and what avenues don’t provide as profitable results. Once you can identify that, you can bring a product to the retail landscape that is innovative and designed.
What are the newest and most exciting changes in the marketplace lately?
With the narrowing down of brands in the industry, we have been able to fulfill our niche in a more successful way. We see how our customer reach can be brought to life through boutique, online, and major marketplaces. With the recent emphasis of featuring product online, our brand has expanded across continents and cultures. In turn, the world has become a smaller place, allowing us to share our creations to an expanded audience.
Yes! We are so happy that 2014 marks the 25th year we have been in business. In celebration of this milestone, we have decided to expand and launch three new looks for Fall 2014: A day bag collection, a clutch capsule and modern party bags that hit a crossover demographic. By adding these to our novelty collector pieces, we are able to reach our valued Mary Frances customer as well simultaneously offer a contemporary choice. Also to note, we will be releasing a 25th anniversary limited-edition exclusive Mary Frances collector bag for Winter 2014.
In terms of styling, what are you focusing on for the Fall/Holiday season?
I think trends have broadened: straying from the ‘in one season, out another’ to a more realistic, post-recession market. The end consumer wants to get full mileage out of what they are buying. The one universal trend that I follow, and that I’ve always followed, is setting yourself apart with something beautiful and unique–that also feels comfortably like you. A few of our favorite trends for fall are: metallics, textured sensibility, pattern clashing, and bold color palettes.
Which designers/runway fashion shows have been the most influential for you in terms of planning your Fall/Holiday line?
I was inspired by both the Chanel and Valentino Fall 2014 collections. When reviewing the Chanel show, I gravitated towards the pops of color and the structured silhouettes geared towards the modern sophisticate. Both of these fell in line with the Mary Frances customer and I worked to integrate them into the Fall line. The Valentino show provided a softer influence to complement my inspiration from Chanel. Their fall collection showcased raw femininity through embellishment and bold textures. I’ve translated this by using natural, earthy stones mixed on soft, wearable, beaded clutches.
Social media has facilitated constant contact and conversation with our customers, something we really value as being priceless. The instant feedback (for better or worse!) that comes through posts and social media has been a great way to navigate what our customer is on the hunt for. It helps us identify our seasonal focus and trickle that information from our design team all the way to our retail accounts, making sure we offer the most current, coveted product we can.
Are there any celebrities, bloggers, movies, TV, music festivals, etc., that are driving trends for you lately?
We are inspired by such a large range of people, places and things. The Mary Frances line ranges from the whimsical novelty bags to the chic pattern driven clutches. Our inspiration can be anything from a chandelier we spy on a weekend shopping trip to a beautiful dress we see on Zooey Deschanel. Current events, films, television series, museum trips and a collaboratively creative team provide endless inspiration.
Mary Frances was featured in Accessories magazine’s June issue: A look at who and what is hot now–in product, brands, stores, pop culture, business, social media, e-commerce, apps, runway trends, technology, startups, museum exhibits and much, much more!
To read this page, click here.