If you've ever googled the words "Hermès Birkin bag collection", you might have come across bagsnob.com, the brainchild of fashion blogger, Tina Craig. Known for her impressive collection of bags, and equally impeccable taste, it was only a matter of time before a fashion house would come calling for a collaboration.
We speak to the the Instagram star (as of press time, she's got around 256,000 fans) about her latest collection with Italian luxury brand, Gianfranco Lotti, and what it takes to stay at the top of her game.
How do you describe yourself as a designer?
Tina Craig I am first and foremost, a lover and collector of luxury fashion. I always think of myself as a girl’s best friend/designer. I design what I know my friends and I want but cannot find in the marketplace!
What's your design ethos?
TC Quality, function and form are equally important for me. If you own a beautiful bag but can’t use it, what is the point? Same goes for an expensive bag that falls apart the first time you use it. It’s a necessary balance.
How did the collaboration with Gianfranco Lotti come about?
TC I went to Florence last November to attend the opening of the Gianfranco Lotti flagship boutique and designed a One Piece Only bag with the house. I was instantly impressed with their atelier, craftsmanship and its artistic heritage. When Mr. Lotti suggested we collaborate on a collection together, I accepted immediately!
What was the design process like?
TC It was a long and involved process, made even more difficult due to geography. It started with meetings between Mr. Lotti and myself in the Florence atelier and continued in Paris during fashion week. We discussed my ideas, how it could be synergized with the Gianfranco Lotti heritage and values, etc. After that, for the next few months, I would send sketches and photos of inspirations and color stories via Skype, email and WhatsApp. I pulled over on the side of a highway one late afternoon and took a photo of the sky, the multiple striped colored hues I captured that day are now the centerpiece of the collection. We went back and forth with different patterns and color schemes until we got what we felt was the perfect collection. Even though the hand cut and hand sewn birds, sunset, stripes, palm trees, etc. were very complicated and proved challenging from a manufacturing standpoint (we hand drew the birds!) not to mention very costly—Mr. Lotti and his capable team indulged me.
Despite the challenges, I am grateful to have designed my first luxury collection under the guidance of Mr. Lotti, who has been known for fine Italian leather craftsmanship for over 45 years, melding my ideas with the house’s iconic elements like the Florentine gate pattern and the key holes makes the bags very unique and beautifully complements the entire collection.
As for Net-A-Porter, I could not have asked for a more supportive retail partner! When I showed Billie Faricy-Heyet, the senior luxury bag buyer, the collection in NYC during market and saw her enthusiasm and support for the collection, I knew we had to go exclusive with them. I’ve worked with Net-a-porter for almost 11 years, both as an affiliate partner and brand (with the Bag Snob x DKNY bag collaboration in 2010, the first ever blogger collaboration with a large global brand), and there is a deep level of mutual trust and respect.
Which is your favourite item in the collection?
TC This is the most difficult question! The bags are like my babies, from the first sketches to the final products. It took about nine months so it’s literally like we gave birth to them! But if I must choose, I would say the Galaga tote in sunset shades of red and purple with coordinating bird strap. I find myself pulling it on daily because it’s the perfect day-to-night bag in colors that seem to go with everything.
What do you think is so special about your collection?
TC There really is nothing like it in the market right now. I was tired of seeing the same bags everywhere. There's the iconic Hermès Birkin and Kelly and the fun whacky bags, but very little in between. The bags’ colorful side panels were inspired by the freedom and joy I felt as a child riding my bike all day until dusk along the coast in Los Angeles. They depict birds on the wing, a sunset and stripes—all rendered in hand-cut and sewn calfskin.
Our bags have a sense of whimsy but the quality is incredible. It’s an unusual combination. Gianfranco Lotti has been known for fine Italian leather craftsmanship for over 45 years, melding my ideas with the house’s iconic elements like the Florentine gate pattern and the key holes makes the bags very unique.
You were one of the first to turn a blog into a successful fashion business. How do you stay ahead of the game?
TC I don’t really think of it as keeping up, I am a naturally curious person and have an insatiable thirst for learning and gaining new knowledge. I believe knowledge is power. I also love trying new things, the minute social media (Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) started, I dove right in and made it my priority to learn this new way of communicating with an audience. Mostly because I think it’s fun but also because I think change is inevitable in anything you do, being open and accepting of change is important in being successful at anything!
Did you always dream of designed your own bag line?
TC It was always on the back of my mind, especially in my 20s when I started buying nice bags. I would see a pretty bag, try it on, and it wouldn’t function properly or a clasp would be difficult to work, etc. And I would think to myself, I wish I could design my own bags! The first opportunity I was given to design a bag collection was from Donna Karan. We were working on DKNY bag coverage and I had a lot of opinions, maybe too many, and some not so positive. So I pitched the idea of designing a capsule collection to DKNY based on my Five Essentials (the five bags I think every woman should have—a daily tote, a travel bag, treasure or exotic bag, a trendy bag and a clutch bag) and they accepted!
Do you remember your first bag, ever?
TC My first bag was a Hello Kitty bag, it was pink and held all my plum candies and treats. My first designer bag was Gucci, from my mother when I was 18, with a matching wallet. It was the 'Asian girl starter set', I believe!
Let's talk about your personal collection. How many bags have your amassed over the years?
TC I honestly do not know! I imagine it must be in the hundreds but I donate and give away bags regularly, so I have no idea what the actual number is. My current favourites are the bags I designed with Gianfranco Lotti and a pink bag made of shark teeth my husband got me on our honeymoon. Of course my Hermès collection has a special place in my heart.
So... what’s in your bag?
TC I try to carry as little as possible. After having a kid and lugging giant diaper bags and totes around, I love the freedom of not needing many things. I have my iPhone, a small wallet I designed with Valextra that holds cash, a credit card holder, and a purple python make up bag I designed. That’s it! This makes it very easy to transfer and change bags which I do daily (sometimes several times a day). If I am traveling I also carry a spare charger in my bag along with snacks.
What’s the one big bag trend to watch in 2017?
TC Bags with personality! Whether colours, prints, or personalized – I think we all have the simple chic classic bags in our closets by now and it’s time to have fun!