The story behind the first Poppy Barley handbag begins almost two years ago, when Kendall and I were introduced to the owner of a very high-end handbag factory in León, Mexico. Besides being impressed with the quality of their bags, we were charmed by the story of the founders, a married couple who moved to Mexico from Spain in their early 20’s because they saw more opportunity in León.
They started the company in their kitchen with $2000 USD, which they used to buy a used sewing machine, a table to cut leather, and some sheepskins from Europe. Twenty-six years later, they have a mid-sized operation with 55 employees and a reputation for making the most beautiful bags in Mexico. Given all this, we were just happy they were willing to work with us! (We will be sharing more of the story of this factory in early January as part of our commitment to transparent manufacturing.)
The world is awash with handbags (in fact, in 2005, the handbag became the highest grossing product in the fashion industry, and so every fashion line hurried to launch their own), so it was important to us to add something of value and not just churn out another branded bag. We focused on thoughtful design for a bag that is both beautiful and highly functional, and offering it at an exceptional price point for the quality of the bag. (Because we sell directly to you, we skip the typical wholesaler markup that adds another 100% markup to most products.)
We made the following choices when designing The Perfect Handbag:
- Black Pebble leather
- Poppy Barley branded hardware
- Adjustable crossbody strap
- Shoulder straps with clasp to keep them together
- Outer pocket with zipper for your phone and business cards
- Inner compartments, both large and small
- Top zipper to keep your contents inside (for those times it’s your airport carry on)
- Room for your laptop and your file folders (and your lunch, and wristlet, and water bottle, and notebook etc.)
- Expandable outer zippers for those days when you feel like Mary Poppins!
- Lightweight for those days when you don’t.
- And finally, a printed lining that was hand-painted by our Brand Design Manager, Monica. Below, she breaks down her creative process (because it’s not as straight forward as one might think!)
Monica: As the sole graphic designer at Poppy Barley, I get to work on a lot of exciting and unexpected projects. This was definitely one of them! When the team was imagining The Perfect Handbag, we really wanted to treat it as a perfect Poppy Barley handbag—thinking about our customers, their busy lives and their appreciation for the beautiful and luxurious.
Developing a custom lining and pattern came in a couple steps:
- Inspiration: fun, light and refined—just like our customers. I frequently find myself drooling over the beautiful watercolour and pattern work of designer instagram accounts, Nathalie Ouederni, Moniquilla, Ooh Mar Win, Joy and Katharine Watson, and decided this was the perfect project to try my hand at watercolours and patterning.
- Function: as a team, we decided it’s extremely annoying when the inside of a bag is so dark that everything disappears into a black hole in the universe. Choosing a light-coloured lining (along with MANY multi-functional pockets) was our solution to brighten up the inside and keep things organized.
- Sketching + watercolours: There was definitely an experimentation phase in this venture. As someone who’s always dabbled here and there in art, calligraphy and anything creative, I pulled out my craft bin and paint supplies and spent a few evenings entranced in floral experimentations. Realizing my limitations with a medium that people spend their lives mastering, I ended up sketching out my general pattern, then painting each flower in large scale knowing I could shrink them down later.
- Digitizing + Editing: Once I was happy with overall look of the poppies I scanned them in, adjusted any major flaws (oh photoshop, you are my friend) and then worked in illustrator to vectorize them. Once in vector form I worked to create the repeating pattern. We played with the colours for awhile—as you can see in the originals they started off red—but ended on our signature Poppy Barley turquoise Pantone to really represent the brand as we step into leather accessories.
Justine: To capture the gloss of the leather and the shine of the gold hardware, we hired photographer Jillian Schecher for her impeccable styling and approach to lighting. We are thrilled with the results, and, based on sales so far, we see this bag has resonated with many of you as well!
We currently only have 12 handbags left with a delivery timeline of January 4th and 8th. The next batch will be arriving at the end of January. So, if you’d like to gift the Poppy Barley bag for Christmas, we’ll send you a little something to put under the tree so you don’t have to show up empty-handed 🙂
Still, we’d love more feedback on what other colours you’d like to see in “The Perfect Handbag“, and what the perfect bag is for you, if it continues to elude you. For everyone who has purchased it so far, show us your bag in action (#PoppyBarleySquad). I hope it completes your Christmas.