Despite the amazing weather we’ve been having in New York lately, I was invited to spend it indoors (air-conditioned of course) at the Hyatt 48 Lex this past Sunday. For the third year in a row, I’ve been asked to be on the preliminary judging panel for the Handbag Designer Awards.
For those of you unfamiliar, Emily Blumenthal is the founder of the HBD Network. Home to Handbagdesigner101.com, The Independent Handbag Designer Awards and author of Handbag Designer 101: Everything You Need to Know About Designing, Making, and Marketing Handbags. Emily has earned herself the title of industry’s leading handbag scout who’s recently been on the casting panel for Project Runway’s spinoff, Project Accessory. She is also their official blogger.
A process that began back in December, interested candidates were encouraged to submit some of their latest designs to one of the following categories-Best Overall in Style & Design, Student Made, Best Handmade, Best Green, Most Socially Responsible and Fan Favorite. With over a 1000 applicants who applied worldwide, the chances of becoming the next big name within the handbag world is like winning the lottery-slim to none.
Although if lucky to be chosen as a finalist, winners announced at the Handbag Designer Awards in June here in New York, are given opportunities to have their lines featured in major fashion magazine’s like Instyle, who has partnered with Emily for several years now and features the winners in their September issue. Along with free publicity, the overall winner will receive a complimentary booth at one of the largest fashion trade shows in the US-WWD Magic, have their line picked up at Bloomingdale’s and a collaboration with this years iconoclast recipient Rafe.
Past winners include Clara Kasavina, who won 2011’s red carpet ready category. Since their win, their evening style handbags have been seen in magazine’s like American Vogue, Instyle, Teen Vogue and Lucky. They’ve also been spotted on the red carpet adorning celebs like Leslie Mann, Rihanna and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I even had the opportunity to pull several pieces for supermodel Coco Rocha for an appearance in New York.
Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel’s have expressed interest in carrying their line since being recognized, and they are now being sold at various boutiques internationally.
Rouzita & Bita Vahhabaghai have also experienced this kind of success since winning in the overall category last year. Their line ita was quickly picked up by Sak’s 5th Avenue and Intermix. Selling out at certain locations have put them on track to expand to even more doors. They say being apart of this competition was the best decision they could have made to help grow their business. However, since being recognized by leaders in the industry, they feel the pressure that comes along with all their new business.
Speaking of pressure, Aimee Kestenberg, at only 24, felt the need to make a name of herself within the world of fashion. After being named a winner in 2010 and finalist in 2011, she received her work visa and quickly partnered with the Adoni group to create her line Aimee Kestenberg. Her dream once a mere thought is now her reality.
In a market where names like Hermes, Celine, Coach and Michael Kors dominate, being the next break out star comes with its challenges. Emily and her mission are slowly changing that allowing emerging names to float to the surface with the Handbag Awards now in its seventh year. Her continued efforts to fight for the underdog are being noticed by big names like Brother, Timberland, Charming Charlie’s, Pantone, and Vitamin Water which are all official sponsors of this year’s awards.
Emily continues to inspire those around her with her passion, dedication and spunky personality. She saw a need and instead of thinking of herself, she thought about helping others. The mind of genius if you ask me!
On a personal note, I’ve absolutely enjoyed being apart of this particular project for the past three years now. Looking back and seeing how far some of these designers have come, to know that I was apart of that, reminds me why I got involved in fashion. You can’t be successful yourself without helping others become successful too. Emily proves this theory with the Handbag Awards.