I’m not sure who is trying to make the Fanny Pack come back into style, but I admit that I was at least a wee bit tempted to snatch up this iridescent Pink version of the reviled fashion accessory when I saw it hanging from a display at the local Lot Less closeout store on 14th Street. Only $4.99 – what a bargain!
In mid-century America, molded Box Handbags like this one (circa 1955) were fabricated by the New York City accessory firm Wilardy aka Wilardy Originals, which embraced the increasingly experimental postwar design trend towards ‘scientific’ materials such as Lucite.
Wilardy Originals began in 1946 as Handbag Specialties, a collaboration between father and son team, Charles William Hardy and William Hammond Hardy. The original offices and factory were in New York, and moved to Union City, New Jersey in 1953. Charles, who was called Bill, was a wizard with mathematics and a serious business man. William, known as Will, was the artist, designer, a great motivator and a man who possessed unusual social grace. Will Hardy took over the business in the 1960s, and continued designing and manufacturing into the early 1980s.
In addition to lucite handbags, Will designed lighting fixtures for Dinico, lucite bathroom fixtures, elegant containers for Atlantic Can, a chest of drawers for Jacqueline Kennedy, chandeliers for the White House, jewelry, tableware for the Grainware Company, and even clothing. He passed away on May 24th, 2018. Find out more about Wilardy Originals at This Link!
Photographed in the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan.
There is little doubt that a fashionable handbag can tie a look together like no other accessory, and in many cases it ends up being the conversation piece of an outfit. While “It Bags” from design houses like Hermes and Moschino can set you back thousands — or even tens-of-thousands — of dollars, it’s possible to own a super cute handbag that is truly a work of art for a very affordable price. Allow me to introduce you to the Signature Handbag collection from designer and artist, Kent Stetson.
Kent Stetson creates functional, wearable art which he refers to as Art-To-Go! His handbag designs include popular themes like food, fashion, pets, flowers, cocktails, special interest hobbies, and his own abstract patterns, so there really is a bag to suit every taste. Assorted designs feature a novelty closure adornment, such as the faux oyster or donut seen on the bags in the above photo. Stetson’s bags are so visually exciting, you may not be able to resist the urge to own more than one!
The Signature Handbag collection has a fascinating origin story, which Stetson shares on his website; “In 2003, after the disappointment of dismantling an exhibition of my paintings where nothing sold, I started cutting up the canvas pieces and sewing them into bags.” Kent found that these fun and unique handbags sold immediately.
His story continues, “Raised on a farm, watching my mother repair and maintain the harnesses for the horses, I gathered a sense of the craft of leatherwork. I had the tools that I needed, I simply had to connect the dots to my paintings. It turns out that I did not need a wall to display my art, and that a bag was a perfect way to package it.”
Originally, the bags were a framing device but they since have become his medium. Stetson’s designs are an instantly-recognizable wardrobe staple enjoyed by celebrities and collectors worldwide. These signature clutch bags are made from luxury-quality coated canvas, and range in style from traditionally artistic to kitsch. You can see that these designs are a great way to spark a fun conversation that breaks the ice and turns everyday adventures into an opportunity to make new friends.
The designer employs a team of highly-skilled technicians who work alongside him to produce each piece, and his Rhode Island-based workshop has a high bar for excellence, having earned many awards. There are nearly 50 steps in making each signature bag and all pieces are produced to order, making each one specially for the recipient.
Stetson never loses sight of the fact that he had to fail hard in order to become a success. “Whether you are one of our early first patrons, or a new collector,” he offers, “it is an honor for me to make something that I know you will enjoy using. Thank you for helping me turn what was a disappointing start to my career as an artist into something more wonderful than I could have ever imagined!”
All handbags come with a removable cross-body chain, a logo dust bag, a clear vinyl inner pocket, and each is individually signed. All prices include shipping. Shop Online for Kent Stetson’s Signature Collection at This Link!
All Photos Taken at NY Now Summer 2019 at the Javits Center.
It has been said that an ‘it bag’ is only an ‘it bag’ if you’re unlikely to ever own one. Characterised by exclusivity, celebrity and exorbitant price tags, ‘it bags’ were first introduced in the mid 1980s, and by the early 1990s small bags emblazoned with corporate designer logos were the accessories in fashion-conscious circles. Glossy advertising campaigns, glamorous brand ambassadors and celebrity style icons, including Lady Diana, encouraged power-dressing executives with high disposable incomes to snap up these luxury wares.
In critique of this phenomenon, Italian designer Franco Moschino produced a series of handbags that parodied the trend for conspicuous consumption. Among them were witty works such as the Steam Iron Handbag (Ferro da Stiro), using white lacquered and metallic silvered leather. Marrying humour and irreverence, Moschino’s surreal visual puns satirised the fashion industry, couture conventions and consumerism. Yet they also drew attention to the social politics of the period, critiquing the stereotypical female clotheshorse and articulating the less glamorous reality that, despite their careers, women remain enslaved to the domestic realm in ways that men do not. Combining luxury with eccentricity, this handbag is an extraordinary example of Moschino’s wit and talent.
Photographed as part of The Exhibit Camp: Notes on Fashion, on View Through September 8th, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
While I was at Christies Auction House a few months back to check out the George Michael Art Collection, I decided to poke around a bit to see what other goodies they had ready to go on the block, and that is when I spotted this cute little Hermes bag with a face and arms, which I discovered is called a Kelly Doll Bag. The Kelly Doll is a take on the classic Hermes Kelly bag, but with little arms, legs, and a smiling face. The bag’s turnlock closure serves as the nose, and the arms are moveable, so you can even pose your doll bag if you’d like! Specifically designed for the SOGO department store opening in Hong Kong, these tiny bags measure just 6″ W x 5.5″ H x 2.5″ and are so rare that they can only be found at auction. Selling prices range from $25,000 to over $100,000!
You can read more about bags like this one at This Link.
While I was out west in California for the Christmas holidays, I spent a few days in San Deigo, where I visited the historic Hotel Del Coronado, a luxury resort property that’s right on the beach. The Hotel Del, as it is known, has an amazing and colorful history that goes back to the late 1880s and it is arguably San Diego’s most famous landmark building. It was also once known as Hollywood’s Playground, so it is not much og a surprise that their gift shop sells all kinds of fancy stuff like this simply breathtaking Pink Lotus Blossom Handbag by Mary Frances handbags, which I would wish to own.
I stopped into the Aldo accessories boutique yesterday afternoon after scoring a serious shoe bargain next door at Century 21, and just fell in love with this glittery pink handbag shaped like a pair of luscious lips! This beautiful bag is compact, yet roomy enough to hold a decent amount of your crap — besides just a smart phone and wallet — and it also includes a slender shoulder strap for hot cross-body action. OMG so cute. Get yours at Aldo, located at 470 Broadway (and other locations – Google them!) in Manhattan, or buy it online for $45.00 at This Link!