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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Design Talk: Elle & Anne Handbags

Hi there!!! Hope everyone's week is going well...it's almost Friday! Yeah! This week, I would like to introduce, Michelle Duncan, from Elle & Anne Handbags. Michelle creates one of a kind handbags and accessories. Her bags are absolutely beautiful. Her company is based out of Lynchburg, Virginia, but anyone can customize a bag from her website.
Michelle Duncan, Designer/Owner  
Today, I have interviewed Michelle on her eye for design, tips, etc.
Michelle hard at work


















1. What is your favorite aspect of design?

 My favorite aspect of design would have to be sketching.  I am, by no means, an artist but I can create something on paper and then watch it come to life in the "prototype" phase.  It's such a joy!  Although I have to admit, almost every prototype ends up slightly different than the sketch. That, too is fun for me.  It's that creative license I enjoy as a designer.

2. What made you want to open/start your own handbag and accessories line?

Duncan Clutch
I love fabric, I love fabric, I love fabric...  Seriously though, I collected fabric for years and one day my husband said, "you need to do something with that or quit buying because we are running out of space!"  At that time, toile handbags were all the rage and I saw one in a catalog that I loved.  However, it was over $110 and it was floppy and bare-bones.  I decided I would try my hand at creating something I could carry that didn't cost me that amount.  That first handbag was made of toile but that's about all it had in common with the one I wanted!  It was crudely made, to say the least, but it sparked something in me.  I decided that I wanted to create things so that women had a choice of the fabrics, aspects of the bag, etc... when purchasing a purse or accessory.  I didn't want them to have to spend $110 on something that lacked style and I also wanted to share my love of fabric with women everywhere.  After all, fabric addicts love company!


3. Your handbags and accessories represent a unique style; what usually inspires you to come up with a design?  Does the fabric give you inspiration?

Choosing the design is usually inspired by different things for each bag.  It might be a certain fabric that looks like someone I know and so I create something I think they would carry.  Sometimes it's a challenge someone gives me, like our recent Wilmington Tote and other times, I am making something for myself and it ends up pretty cool so I offer it to my clients. Fabric is ALWAYS an Inspiration!


The Catherine

4. How do you choose fabrics and materials? Do you think it is okay to mix and match patterns or colors?

 When choosing fabrics, I buy the absolute best I can afford.  If something takes my breath away, I grab it...if something pops out in a stack of other fabrics, I have to have it.  If I see a high-end fabric at a great price...it's in the collection.  Mostly, I buy what I like and try to get a good deal so that I can keep our products at a reasonable price for the ladies shopping with us.  I mix fabrics 100% of the time!  In fact, on my website it says that we choose the interior fabric.  I have a certain signature look/way of coordinating that I like and I don't EVER give up that part of design as that's what makes e&a the brand it's become.


5. Recently, you've been beginning to design more than just handbags and a creating custom home decor and wedding accessories, what made you want to expand your line? 

 I've expanded simply because of client requests, friend or family requests or something I want to do.  I love sharing what I create but you will see that we are pulling back from that, finishing up current projects and putting 98% of our focus back into handbags and accessories as that is our love and the demand right now.

 
6. What Designer inspires you? 
Actually, I don't get inspired by other handbag designers.  I try not to so that I am not copying anyone.  I mostly get inspired but fabric designers like Thibaut, Shumacher, Brunswig and Fils, PKauffman, Lee Jofa, etc... and I also get inspired by my friend, Dianne Mowry (the "anne" of elle&anne) because she is a TERRIFIC interior decorator.  While she isn't part of the company, she continuously inspires me with her fabrics in her shop and the rooms she designs!

Jennifer Tote

7. What do you suggest for a talented individual, like yourself, to start their own small business or pursue their dreams?

 Everyone is talented in some way or another!  I say to just get started...trial and error is the way I made it.  I learned more from the mistakes I've made than the things I got right.  After 12 years, I can honestly say that I finally have a grip on design elements, fabrics, etc...  I am constanly evolving the way we create and produce but I have the basics down.  I guess what I'm saying is, don't expect results over night...slow and steady wins the race!  Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you but will give you honest feedback and get going!

Thanks Michelle for visiting La Maison Chic!

If any of you have any questions for Michelle, please leave a comment below. Otherwise, feel free to visit Michelle and Elle&Anne. Also, follow Elle and Anne Handbags on Facebook.

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