Spicing up luxury leather goods

Spicing up luxury leather goods

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Anya Hindmarch:
Spicing up luxury leather goods

When London-based accessories designer Anya Hindmarch opened her boutique on Madison Avenue, she brought a bit of the old world with her. Not that you would spot that at first glance. Her first floor is filled with imaginative, chic, and wonderfully- crafted leather goods that reflect her design ethos: Any fashion that’s interesting has to be “a little bit mad.” This season’s handbags certainly deliver.

Her bags for Spring, many in classic shapes and enlivened with vivid colors, can be customized with a choice of unexpected details and cheeky embellishments—like massive tassels, playful leather “stickers,” key fobs with cartoony faces, or contrasting woven handles that riff on industrial cord. The combinations are beautiful, clever, and fresh, allowing buyers to personalize the handbags, wallets, travel kits, journals, makeup bags or other leather goods they might pick up at the store—and to decide for themselves just where they want to fall on the sedate-to-mad fashion spectrum.

Personalization goes to the heart of Hindmarch’s gift: She is better at it than just about anyone else on the planet, making it easy for shoppers to craft a personal story through one of her luxurious leather accessories.
Much of this action takes place upstairs, in a display area and workshop on the second floor. There, on shelves and in cases scattered with mementos and vintage and antique ephemera are examples of her bespoke leather products—like leather picture frames or cases with handwritten messages embossed in gold or contrasting colors.

Any fashion that’s interesting has to be “a little bit mad.”

For my sister-in-law’s birthday recently, I had a favorite photo of my niece and nephew printed on a small silk case, trimmed in gold leather. For a friend’s promotion, I personalized a small black leather business card case in the shape of an envelope, adding his name, new title, and business address to the front, embossed in gold lettering in my own wavering hand. To complete the look, we added a red stamp with Queen Elizabeth’s profile, to which John, an aproned embosser from London, added three wavy postage lines.

Like anything handmade, the bespoke process defies instant gratification. Both projects took weeks to months to complete, including some finishing that occurred in London. For me, the project started at a wooden table where I nibbled on the hard candies Hindmarch keeps piled high in giant apothecary jars (trust me: don’t start) as I labored to produce elegant script. Balled up paper—my outtakes—soon grew high. Eventually, the very patient bespoke specialist resorted to scissors and tape to piece together my message.

Some weeks after presenting the gift, I asked my friend if he liked it. Yes, he assured me, he adores it. But he won’t ever use it.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a work of art.”

I am, apparently, not the first to labor over a gift at the store. The sales staff keeps an antique linen cabinet filled with some of the more interesting outtakes. My favorite is from a young man who covered several sheets of paper with hundreds of versions of the same phrase, written in slanted, impossibly tiny, crab-like scrawl.

“Will you marry me?” it implored.

Her answer, unlike his question, was instant.

Yes, she would.

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Anya Hindmarch :: 795 Madison Avenue.
Now with an outlet at Bergdorf Goodman.