Clutch players: 7 designers redefining luxury handbags

Clutch players: 7 designers redefining luxury handbags

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Text: Raia Gomez

Forget traditional beadwork and the usual leather — a new generation of designers are redefining the common aesthetic for luxury evening bags

Gone are the days when evening bags simply meant beaded and bejeweled clutches, satin and leather pouches or the mini version of the current It bag. From New York, Greece, Dubai and beyond, these up and coming designers are pushing the envelope, recreating the formula and designing luxury handbags using unusual materials.

It's all about architectural silhouettes, redefined classics, striking graphics, and playful customisations. Get to know the new designers who are creating clutches using modern technology and innovative methods to incorporate industrial and synthetic materials for construction of the more fashionable sort.  

Designer Urania Giourmetaki didn't quite intend to become a handbag designer. Coming from a Greek family heavily involved in the Perspex industrial construction, she wanted to find a way to combine her family's business with her own passion and skills. In 2012, after years of research, prototyping and business planning, Giourmetaki launched her label Urania Gazelli, a name inspired by her late grandmother. The Urania Gazelli collection has become distinct for it's fun and modern interpretation of classical and cultural themes. From clutches etched with the silhouettes of Greek gods and goddesses to the clever Gameboy and playing card purses, each style is a clear statement piece. With each clutch taking up to 12 hours to construct, Urania's playful and often whimsical designs are backed by fine craftsmanship and skilled techniques.

Driven by a desire to break the existing mould and traditional concepts for evening bags and clutches, German-born designer Kristine Johannes launched her luxury accessories label, Rauwolf, in 2012. After designing for internationally recognised brands such as J.Crew and Devi Kroell, Johannes' experience working with leather tanneries and factories motivated her to push the conventional formula and design evening clutches made from uncommon materials using innovative techniques. Plexiglas, inlaid mirrors, liquid injections, resin and razor-cut wood are just a few of the materials that Johannes uses to create the red carpet-worthy pieces that Rauwolf has become known for.

Edie Parker, named after designer Brett Heyman's daughter, was born out of Heyman's love for mid-century style, particularly the acrylic clutches from the 1950's and 1960's. What began as a personal collection of vintage purses transformed into her own design collection when Heyman could no longer find the purses of bygone eras from vintage and second-hand retailers. Edie Parker was launched in 2010 for a new generation of bag lovers. With them in mind, the brand also offers bespoke services where bag lovers can personalise their clutches with their names or any text of their choosing along with the shape, colours and other details of the bag. Expanding on the fun and eye-catching acrylic clutches that the brand is synonymous to, Edie Parker has now also combined 18K gold-plated metal, exotic skins, embroidery and velvet into it's trademark designs.

The Beirut-born Nathalie Trad launched her eponymous accessory line in 2013 after studying design in Paris and gaining experience in New York City with the design team at Proenza Schouler. Trad's personal design ethos involves reimagining classic geometric shapes ever-present in our surroundings and scientific sequences in nature by deconstructing and transforming them into entirely new silhouettes. Instead of incorporating design elements into a bag, Trad imagines herself designing completely different structures and sculptures and subsequently constructs those ideas into a bag. Her use of unconventional materials combined with her design aesthetic makes for one of a kind, show stopping clutches.

After years in the fashion industry that included stints designing for Ralph Lauren and as an original co-founder that helped establish the Tory Burch brand, Fiona Kotur launched her own label in 2005. Originally from New York, Kotur's home is now in Hong Kong, where her bags are also produced. With designs that range in style from retro glamour, to classic sophistication and chic graphics, Kotur has earned the reputation as a brand of "little bags with big personalities." Whether it's the brand's Perspex clutches or beaded minaudières, each piece is bursting with character that is reflective of the very muses and icons who not only inspire her designs but are the namesakes of her creations. Combining Fiona's own New York sensibilities and exotic flare, along with the traditional craftsmanship and modern techniques applied in producing her designs, Kotur clutches epitomise the individual style and universal strength of the women who carry them.

With her background in interior design, designer Lee Savage creates sculptural pieces that also happen to be stunning handbags. Drawing inspiration from contemporary, minimalist art and architecture, Savage's clutches are characterised by their sleek, geometric forms. Conceptualised using Bristol board mock-ups, Savage's designs are produced from solid brass frames by Italian craftsmen, which are then plated with gold, silver or gunmetal. While the clutches pay homage to the mod era that the designer is so inspired by, they simultaneously characterise futuristic aesthetics, which particularly resonate in the brand's latest Lunar and Broken Space clutches. Designed and crafted with painstaking attention to detail and exquisite workmanship, Lee Savage clutches straddle the line between modern art and timeless accessory.

Originally from Iran yet born in London and now based in Dubai, after also having lived in Vancouver and Marbella, L'Afshar designer, Lilian Afshar is undoubtedly inspired by her travels and the many cultures she's been immersed in. Since designing her clutches as a complement to her ready-to-wear thesis collection at the distinguished ESMOD school, her brand has taken off — quite literally. The winged L'Afshar logo, a hybrid of a beetle and a dragonfly, embodies transformation, growth and strength. The striking clutches are produced in three sizes and can be custom engraved. Intricate textures, glass and marble interpretations, as well as vivid candy colours and jewel tones all combine to create unique, street style worthy box clutches, that have in fact, been seen on the arms of many a street style star.