designer spotlight ep 2: cindy kirk designs
so, it turns out i've been carrying cindy kirk bags (both literally & in souchi) for years. we were introduced by a mutual friend that used to carry souchi in her sun valley store. i fell in love with the bags instantly. i can always appreciate items that are hand crafted. and, in a luxury bag with no logo. but, you can always tell a cindy bag by stitching and beads. the love is real. we finally met in person a few years ago for a trunk show i did in aspen and the love was deeper and continues. meet this amazing woman, designer, creator & my friend. prepare to fall in love.
and, as a treat…read to the end.
- when & why did you start cindy kirk designs? and, has your vision changed over the years?i drafted my first pattern in 2012. My business has grown organically as I did not originally intend to be a handbag designer. I made a bag (the Cindy) for myself because I could not find one that I liked.Too many studs, logos and impractical shapes and sizes. As I began to carry my new bag, my friends jumped on the train and wanted them also. I gifted two of my best friends with bags and from there, more and more people saw and wanted them. But, it was with the encouragement of a local store owner, Annette from Sister, that I decided to pursue wholesale accounts which is where I met you. You were one of my first accounts! Initially, I was only pursuing wholesale because I was afraid to deal with the public first hand. Through the years, I have come to realize that I really need both wholesale and DTC thrive.
2. i love your bags because they feel both new and old at the same time. what do you love about them? The functionality of my bags is a real highlight for me. They are practical and easy to use. I always encourage my customers to use them every day, not to save them for special occasions. Because each bag is entirely handmade, every one of them is a unique piece of art to collect. I only have one woman, Larsen, who does a majority of my stitching. There is no machine stitching anywhere on my bags.
3) i know you use a lot of hides from italy which has traditionally been a male dominated field. what's it like for you being a woman owned business today? The first and really only time I felt marginalized as a woman was when I went to a leather show in NYC where predominantly Italian tanneries were featured. I had never been dismissed like that before. A lot of machismo. But, . . . I was also looking to purchase very low minimums. That was a double whammy. I had to really suck it up and dig deep for my inner super woman! I survived and now work with a couple of different tanneries who are fairly respectful. It doesn't bother me anymore.
4) souchi has been carrying your bags for what..7, 8, 9 years? i have found that women who carry your bags used to carry the 'it' bags but now collect yours. what do you think it is that makes them collectible? Oh my goodness . . .I just went back and figured it out. 9 years baby! Your first order was for a 12/15/2013 delivery. You bought a couple of “Originals” which are now the Cindy and a couple of “pouches!” Crazy that it's been that long. We have worked so well together because you get the creative side of things and challenge me to put different colors together. [suzi insert - i am annoying that way! but, i wanted color stitching and then cindy most certainly delivered better than i could have imagined!] My customer is a woman who can afford to carry an “it” bag yet appreciates the uniqueness of my handmade creations My customer is a leader who exudes confidence!
5) i am loving how much you're playing with color. what inspires your creative choices? and, is it purely organic or does business/sales impact some of your decisions? Without a doubt, I am a “color” gal! I love color, especially in my accessories. It just makes me smile and again, it takes confidence to rock a colorful piece. I definitely work organically and choose colors according to my feeling. I've made some mistakes but typically, I can sell what I like.
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6) fashion is moving in a direction towards sustainability. what are you doing in that direction for your business? Before “sustainability” was a thing, I had sustainable practices in play. It really cracks me up that there are people arguing that leather is not sustainable but “vegan leather” is. WTF . . .that is PLASTIC which has to be manufactured and never breaks down! Hello!!!! (Sorry that was a rant). Typically in the handbag industry, manufacturers only use the center part of the hide (the double bend) which is essentially a large rectangle and they discard the remaining sections. I order my hides in full size (picture a cow hide rug with the legs splayed out) so that I can use every bit of leather. This means that I can work with flaws and wrinkles and scars and brands. I incorporate these imperfections into my designs by hiding them under a pocket or even using some scars on interior pockets or other areas of a bag. This brings character to each bag. Because I do all of my own cutting and layout I am able to use every nook and cranny of the hides which means that I have very little waste. The small pieces that are left over, I use to make key chains, glasses cases, card holders and passport holders. What is left over from that, I donate to a local preschool for the kids to use in art projects. I also give some of my scraps to a friend who is a local artist who uses them in her work.
7) i am very curious if you've considered men's accessories? a cool cross body? modern brief case? ooooh, a golf bag! LOL . . .on occasion I get a man who tries to give me ideas on how to best serve him with my designs . . .usually they are not serious. But, my biggest fan is George, my husband. I have renamed the Kate backpack (the one you have and love), the George because he loves his so much and have sold a number of them to local guys and they love it! Then. . .I was fiddling around with the Carla bag a couple of years ago and made a large one thinking it would be a great travel bag. It hung around my studio forever and one day when he was in my studio, George looked at it and said . . .”WTF! Why hasn't this sold? I'm taking it on my next business trip.” It's a brief case style with a an adjustable strap and he loves it. It's our favorite color, yellow, and he's even rocking the beads.
8) what do you want your customers to know about you? I think it is important to know that every single bag that leaves my studio is made with loving hands. There is a little bit of heart and soul stitched right into every piece we create. It is only myself and Larsen, who does all of my stitching. There are many creations that we fall in love with and hate to see leave us. This is a very hard business to break into so every single sale I make, is a true blessing to myself, Larsen and my brand. I cherish every customer . . . .and, I LOVE what I do!!!!
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