(NEW YORK) Jill Haber’s eponymous collection features exotic skins, bright pops of colors, holographic prints, and flashes of Lucite. Are you drooling yet? BY DENA SILVER
What you were doing before you started designing handbags?
When I graduated college I wanted to be an art director at a Madison Avenue firm. I worked in advertising and then I left to work for a children’s book publishing company. I moved my way up the ladder and ended up running a company in that field for a couple of years.
How did you get into handbag design?
It was really pretty organic. My grandmother was a super well-dressed woman and she was an inspiration for me. I have many of her vintage bags, so two years ago I started designing bags based on some of her pieces.
Tell us more about your chic grandma!
She was a fashion icon for me and she always looked grand. She would walk into a room and people would notice how put together she was. She didn’t save anything for a special occasion because she thought life was a special occasion. She would wear an evening bag and beautiful jewelry during the day. Because of that, my brand’s mantra is ‘Life is short, wear your handbag.’
How many of her handbags do you have?
I just poached things over the years and when she passed away, that’s when I took a lot of things and kind of catalogued her pieces. In addition to her handbags, I have some of her old suit jackets, and fur collars.
So how many handbags are in your closet?
A lot! That’s all I’ll say!
Walk us through the creation of a purse.
I make a sketch, then I take newspaper and I cut out a pattern to visualize the shape and size of the bag. Then we do technical drawings, which will tell a hardware maker exactly what we’re looking for; how we’re attaching the skin to the bag, and where the hardware goes. Because I make my hardware overseas, my drawings have to be super specific since things can easily get lost in translation. When the hardware and the skins arrive, I have my factory in New York City make a dummy bag out of some kind of felt or cheap leather so we can really see how it looks. Once everything is perfect and all the tweaks are worked out, we go into production and actually use our skin.
Where do the skins come from?
All of my skins are sourced from my trips to Italy. I have a small office in Scandicci, Italy, where we have two amazing people on the ground working for us. And they speak perfect English!
You use the most amazing skins.
I’m not just going to go and buy any skin. I really take the time to source the best skins that I can find. We try to make them our own and put our personal touch on them, with things like silk overlay, laser cuts or a specific dye and pattern.
Which snakes are the skins from?
They’re all what I consider to be exotics. We can’t sell python in the state of California so we source other snakeskins, like karung and elaphe. There’s also rubberized python in addition to regular python.
Are you introducing any materials aside from snakeskin?
We’re incorporating haircalf in beautiful colors and laser cuts. Instead of just plain leather, we’ve embellished it so it has a beautiful look for the nighttime. We’ve used wood gussets before, but now we’re incorporating some Lucite, and some natural mica. We also have mirrored gussets, so when you’re out at night, you can use your bag to discreetly fix your lipstick.
What can you fit in a Jill Haber bag?
The bags are pretty generous. I test everything myself when we’re at the dummy stage, so I make sure you can fit your iPhone, a pair of glasses, and at least two tubes of lipstick. The smaller ones have a pocket so you can carry a credit card and cash.
How has the line expanded from your first season?
When I first started we had only two evening bags, and I name all my bags for men. We started out with our Sebastian and the Niles, then we had a wrap clutch in two different sizes: the Edward and the Evan. We’ve got quite a lot of fellas now! We’ve added some more clutches and we have more evening bags; some with top handles, some without any handles, and some with shoulder chains. We’ve also added quite a few day bags to our collection and cross-body bags for this coming fall.
You can really see the evolution between seasons.
We’re really trying! And we’ve got skin in the game, pun intended!