Tag Archives: Instyle

8th Annual Indepdendent Handbag Designer Awards

With less than a week away, the preliminary judging panel will be meeting here in New York this coming Sunday to determine finalists for the 8th Annual IHDA (Independent Handbag Designer Awards).  I’m happy to report that I will be on the panel this year, yet again.  I can not wait to see what designers have in-store for us. Along with discovering new names, what tends to really excite me are those who create beautifully crafted bags that bring originality to the market.  If you haven’t entered, there’s still time to apply.  Curious to see which bags standout?  Follow the #HandbagAwards, myself and the others via Instagram & Twitter to stay up-to-date.


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Does Aimee Kestenberg ring a bag?

If not, it will soon.  At only 26, Aimee Kestenberg has already rubbed elbows with names like Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, Jill Stuart, and Alexander McQueen.  She’s also a three-time finalist and two-time winner of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards (which I’ve been a a preliminary judge 3 x’s in a row,) been an apprentice at the House of Couture, and was hand-picked and trained as the protégé of one of New York’s master craftsman which trained her in the key skills and techniques required to master the construction of couture accessories.

Continuing to pursue her passion, she’s most recently launched her very own line of handbags under her own name.  Sold under the Adoni Group, the collection has been featured in Instyle, Vogue.com , Vogue (British), and Elle.  She’s also recently collaborated with New York’s upcoming bloggers like Natalie Saurez from Natalieoffduty.blogspot.com to model her latest designs.

With summer upon us and fall ahead, Aimee invites styleTV’s Keleigh Nealon and Director George Evan to check out her latest collection.

Guests included blogger Natalie Saurez and Celebrity Stylist Phillip Bloch.  The collection can be found at Aimeekestenberg.com and at stores like Macy’s and Norstorm’s.

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Let the judging begin…Again!

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.

annual-independent-handbag-designer-awards-handbag-designer-101-2011-winners(Photo Courtesy of Styleandthestartup.com)

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2012 IHDA’s Winners Featured in Instyle’s September Issue

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I recently was invited to be on the preliminary judging panel for the 2012 IHDA (Independent Handbag Designer Awards) hosted by Handbag Designer 101 & Instyle Magazine this past June.  This was my second year in a row judging and I have to say this is one project I enjoy being apart every year.  Chosen winners received a feature in Instyle’s 2012 September Issue for which I thought I would share with you all, especially since my favorite latin diva Jennifer Lopez graces the cover.   Another congratulations to all the winners and I look forward to seeing you in the stores and on the red carpet in the near future.

To find out what bag I think could be on red carpet, watch some highlight from the 2012 IHDA Awards below.

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J.Hilburn Fitting

This past Friday I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Patrick, the Creative Director of J.Hilburn.   I stopped by his studio in midtown for a quick fitting before he was off to Italy for a week long trip.  In June, I will be on the red carpet for the 2012 Handbag Designer Awards partnered with Instyle Magazine, and they offered to dress me for the big event.  We literally started from scratch picking out fabrics from a basic button-down, to a tie, to even a custom-made double breasted navy blue pin-striped suit.  Oh how the tables have turned since usually I am the one directing the fitting.  Hey, I don’t mind being a model for the day.  Take a look at some great photos we shot.

So many choices to choose from!

The master at work!

I like a little pop of my ankle to show!

Love the pop color under the lapel!


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Jennifer Lopez wearing Clara Kasavina Ivy Cuff in Vogue’s April Issue

If you haven’t picked up the latest issue of Vogue featuring the curvy Jennifer Lopez on the cover, what are you waiting for!?  I’ll give you another good reason to, one of my go-to and favorite handbag and jewelry designers Clara Kasavina is showcased on Jennifer’s wrist in their beautiful Ivy Cuff.  


I was first introduced to this emerging brand last year at the 2011 Independent Handbag Designer Awards where I asked to be a preliminary judge, and little to my surprise they ended up being the overall winner resulting in a feature in Instyle Magazine.  Since then, they have catapulted into every major fashion magazine and have been seen on the red carpet with celebrities like Rihanna, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Hayden  Panettiere, Cat Deely, Melanie Griffith, Jada Pinkett, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Cocho Rocha (who I styled may I add for 2011 WGSN Awards.)



I wish them nothing but the best, and can’t wait to see which new piece they present at the 2012 Independent Handbag Designer Awards.  

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