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In the midst of yesterday's sweltering heat, we put on our most ladylike attire and tried to look cool and collected as we made our way over to the Lulu Guinness store in the West Village, where the English designer was hosting a press preview of her upcoming Fall/Winter collection—along with a shopping event for her fans. We arrived knowing we'd see some beautiful and unique bags, but we had no idea we'd end up having a fascinating conversation with Lulu Guinness, OBE, about the influence of punk on her work and the insecurities of being a designer.
But first, the bags. The striking new collection's theme is Old School Paris, and the purses are the latest incarnation of the Lulu Guinness signature style: chic and feminine, yet whimsical. As always, she creates unique designs that will get one noticed—in a good way.
After a three year hiatus, the doll icon is back on a couple of pieces, including a large bag which shows different doll facial expressions on each side. The collection also includes adorable new box-style clutches in black patent and leopard. We love a dramatic new floral motif, available this season on both the Bow Wanda Bag and the Leona Clutch. It's done in a black cherry hue that is autumn appropriate. And of course, many of the brand's signature Lip Clutches will be returning, including a new style with pinhead studs.
Although there are quilted and laminated totes and bags available for under $100, prices for most of the collection will start at about $395 and go up to about a $1000. Of course, the bag we covet most, is the $1,000 dollar purse—a striking large black leather Bow Wanda Bag, with a giant blow on it, which is covered with pinpoint studs. It manages to be beautiful with a bit of a punk edge.
As we stood admiring that pinpoint studded bag we'll never own, we were introduced to its designer, who turned out to be extremely fun, candid and interesting.
Racked: We love that your work is both girly and edgy.
Lulu Guinness: Yes! Sort of punk with a tutu. It's kind of hard but sweet. So the pinks are fluorescent. It's my style.
Racked: Were you into punk when you were younger?
Guinness: Yes, definitely the style of it. It was my era. I lived in Paris, so it was actually like a Parisian punk. Slightly more...
Racked: Elegantly punk?
Guinness: Yeah. That was what I took in. So there is that side of it, but then there is—it's not so much "girly," but feminine. And hopefully with a bit of humor.
Racked: What influenced you early in your career? No one had ever done anything like your iconic Florist Bag [an early Guinness purse, which looked like flowers in a vase].
Guinness: I know! I just tried some things out. The first bag I did was actually a briefcase. Then everyone I used to try to sell it to, said, "Why don't you do handbags more like you dress?" Which was more vintage and colorful. So I did. And I was very influenced by the Fifties—the rose has quite a Fifties motif. And the flower basket I did—and it sounds so fey whenever I read that I say this—but it was a way of carrying around a vase of roses. [And some people were like] "How mad is that woman?"
Racked: But then it was featured in a museum, right? The V & A in London?
Guinness: They picked it up and put it on all these posters for an exhibition, alongside Vivienne Westwood and the other big English designers at the time. And I think it gave me confidence—the fact that they picked up on it so early—that I must be doing something right. Instead of making me think, "Well that was a stupid idea, I'm just going to do black nylon bags with a zipper on top or whatever." Although I never would have done that because it wouldn't have interested me.
Racked: It's so amazing that you would even have a doubt about it, because everyone who saw that Florist Basket bag at the time was blown away by it.
Guinness: Of course! I'm like all designers. I doubt myself every morning. Every day you start again. So I start from minus a million every day.
· Lulu Guinness [Official Site]
· HSN Accessories Preview: Gastineaus, Fair Trade, and Lulu Guinness [Racked]