We talk to Charlotte Aluna on the inspiration behind her luxury vanity cases

We talk to Charlotte Aluna on the inspiration behind her luxury vanity cases

Swinging sixties here we come baby, yeah!

Text: Renée Batchelor

On the top of our lust list? These luxurious vanity cases that can double up as handbags, from London label Charlotte Aluna. We speak to the woman behind the brand

If you love the craftsmanship and quality found in many vintage items, but want to add your own modern spin to these shapes, Charlotte Aluna may have the answer. The new London label is adored by both fashion insiders and the A-list. The signature Lottie box bag is a contemporary collectible that feels both nostalgic and modern, with a luxe suede lining and patent leather finish, as well as the option to customise the exterior colour and the lining.

The brand has made bespoke bags for Rita Ora, Olivia Palermo and Taylor Swift, but designer Aluna is most inspired by the chic women of a bygone era — from Jane Birkin to Françoise Hardy. We speak to her to find out more.

Tell us about your Lottie bag.
The signature Lottie box bag is a vanity case style bag with a luxe suede interior and mirror inside, and is available in over 20 glossy, calf patent leather colours. The bag comes in two sizes — the smaller is the Lottie with its detachable strap that gives the option of wearing day-to-night, and the Maxi Lottie, which is more of a traditional vanity case size.

What was the moment that triggered the idea for Charlotte Aluna bags? Was it a particular vanity case that inspired you?
I'm a fashion editor and have worked in the industry on glossy magazines and newspaper supplements for over 15 years. I've always had a passion for '50s and '60s fashion and interiors and have collected mid-century vintage clothes and accessories since my early teens. One of my many vintage collections is vanity cases and I'd often use one as a handbag. Bags that are over 50 years old don't tend to wear so well, so I searched for years for a brand new luxury version to no avail. I thought about my 'dream' bag so much that I'd designed the bag in my head, and one day I decided to have the bag handmade in London to my exact specifications with a view to potentially going into production. I knew I was on to something when took my first sample — the Lottie Maxi in black — out to Shoreditch House one Friday night and five girls approached me throughout the evening to ask who the bag was by and where they could buy it.

Charlotte Aluna
Why did you think a vanity case would make a great modern handbag? Why do you put a mirror in each bag?
I've always felt that the vanity case is a timeless design that never dates. I'm not a fan of 'It' bags that are only in fashion for a few months and I have a big aversion to branded products, so keeping the bag logo free was key. I wanted to create a classic 'forever' design through simple, clean lines and it's trademark curve edges.

What was the concept behind the bag's design? Tell us about the various compartments and how you would use them? Did you envisage them mainly for beauty products or do they have multiple uses?
The idea for the bag was for it to appeal to girls like me who have lots of day-to-day and day-to-evening stuff they carry around with them such as all the work essentials, phone and tech equipment, plus makeup, a hairbrush and products for the evening. I have such hectic days flitting all over town from meetings to appointments for shoots, I'm always getting ready for an event or dinner in the back of a taxi, so creating a bag that would fit everything with a built in mirror was a no brainer.

I wanted to create a bag that feels both modern and nostalgic, so I have combined the clean lines of the design and glossy gold hardware with the contrast of the luxe suede interior that features ruched pockets for makeup and a mirror reminiscent of bygone days. Fans of the Lottie bag are far ranging, from professional women such as lawyers who love the space in the Maxi size for all for their paperwork, books and tech stuff to famous makeup artists and celebrities such Rita Ora who use the bag for makeup and products.

How long does the bespoke and engraving service take upon ordering?
I work with an artisan studio in London so am able to offer a complete bespoke service where customers can create a one-of-a-kind bag with options to mix and match different components with the interior from a vast rainbow of colours. Some customers like to choose a different colour for every part of the bag for a unique look, but most people favour classic combinations such as the red patent matched with a black interior. Bags can also be personalised with names or initials engraved onto the lock. The service is available exclusively online and takes just three to four weeks from order.

Charlotte Aluna
Why is it important to you that the bags are handcrafted in London? Was it difficult to find the craftsmen to create these vintage-style bags?
As a fashion editor, I've always championed British brands, in particular brands that are manufactured in the UK. When I decided to launch my own brand, because the main influence came from the 'Swinging Sixties' fashion scene in London, it felt natural and important to be 'Made in London'. This also allows me to offer a bespoke service within three to four weeks, that is so much quicker than other 'British' handbag brands that are actually made overseas, so they have a three months plus waiting time.

Who was the inspiration behind the bag?
My grandmother was a theatre starlet in London's West End during the 1950s and 1960s and her evocative tales of a very glamourous life filled with fun parties and fabulous characters are what drew me to want to work in the fashion world at an early age. As a little girl I would watch her apply her makeup at her dressing table and loved looking through her vanity cases filled with beauty products, so I would say my grandmother is the original inspiration for the brand.

We've seen some cool women on your Instagram from Kate Moss to Debbie Harry to Jane Birkin. Who to you is the Charlotte Aluna woman? Who has inspired you to create the Lottie, and who would you love to see carrying a Lottie?
I reference my favourite style icons from the '40s to the modern day on Instagram who I feel embody the Charlotte Aluna spirit. The British 'It' girls from the '60s such as Jane Birkin, Marianne Faithfull, Patti Boyd, Charlotte Rampling, and Jean Shrimpton are my biggest source of inspiration as they epitomised cool, and photographs of them from that time look so 'London'. I also adore the French girls from the same era — Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Hardy were effortlessly chic. Modern-day girls I love include Alexa Chung, Kate Moss and Edie Campbell. The Lottie box bag is popular with some incredible celebrities and we have made bespoke Lottie bags for Rita Ora, Paloma Faith, Olivia Palermo and Taylor Swift.

The Lottie Box Bag in classic colourways is priced at £1,200. The Maxi Lottie Bag in classic colourways is priced at £1,400. The Charlotte Aluna bespoke service costs +£50 for both sizes. Available here