An Interview With Handbag Designer Monica Botkier

Monika-Botkier-Bags

I remember seeing my first Botkier Trigger bag like it was yesterday, it was at Barney’s in Chicago. I had to have one. So I saved and bought one in black (obviously) and was actually carrying it the night I met my husband. Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to meet Botkier designer Monica Botkier in her showroom and interview her about all things handbags. There is a video below.

FO30: You started the line in 2003 and I bought my Trigger in 2005. That was your breakout bag, you really hit it big quick.

MB: Yes, immediately. I was lucky.

FO30: So how did you become a handbag designer?

MB: I wish I could say it was planned out, but it wasn’t. I was a fashion photographer and on some of these shoots I got to play with amazing high fashion bags and became obsessed. So I had access to these cool leather houses to make my portfolios and I got to thinking I could make my own bag that had enough pockets to hold my gear and stuff. So I sketched one out and had it made and then it started to get a lot of attention on shoots. In April 2003 I made my first bag and in August 2003 Barneys bought 101 pieces. It was that crazy fast.

FO30: It was my first designer bag. Or I should say at the time the most had ever spent on a bag, I think it was $600 which seems laughable now.

MB: A lot people say that. We like a “gateway’ designer bag. We were an approachable, contemporary designer. It bridged the gap because it was aspirational yet at the same time approachable.

FO30: What is the most important element that for you when it comes to designing a bag?

MB: Quality and also function. As women we have to be able to find our phones and keys and whatever else we need and I think being organized helps us feel chic and confident so the design also has to reflect the usage. I have a lot of hidden pockets and most bags have a back slip pocket so you can toss your phone in there. Easy access.

FO30: Do you have some basic or exclusive styles you do every season? Although looking around I think I answered my own question (Trigger bag).

MB: Well yes we have a core, but it has expanded. The Trigger is the mainstay, but now the Trigger itself has many silhouettes. For example Saddle bags are now a core. The Soho tote now also comes in a bunch of sizes and then we’ve added a smaller cross-body style bag. So 20-30% off the line would be new and more fashion/trend forward.

FO30: Are trends important to you when designing a bag?

MB: Well yes, we are in a contemporary market so I think trends are important, but I think there is an element of classic which is why we are still here and still an important brand because we marry classic and forward together with function so therefore we are always touching trend particularly with color and a certain silhouette but there is also that heritage that goes along with it too.

FO30: I’ve also noticed the price points have dropped a bit. Can you explain the thought process behind that?

MB: When we started there was a wide open space. There really was nothing between mass and true designer bags. $595 was a sweet spot. That’s what our Trigger bag cost. And now the large Trigger bag is $398 and the smallest one is $298. After 2008 and the economy crashed we played with price points that we though defined and dictated what contemporary is today.

FO30: Now when you say contemporary to me that means young, but I see women of all ages carrying your bags.

MB: Less than age contemporary signifies to me somebody who is on fashion point. They want something that is touching trend and really expressing themselves that way. At this point our price points are $148 for a small crossbody, dual system pouch up to $598 for some bags made of exotic leathers.

FO30: Are you going to bring back the Bianca bag? I so regret not getting one!

MB: Trigger stays because it is timeless and it’s the foundation of the brand. The Bianca is a bit dated now. Rouching isn’t in at the moment.

FO30: But if that trend comes back you’ll bring it back OK?

MB: Oh we’ve looked at it and tried to figure out a way to modernize it, but for right now it doesn’t work. Right now we are more modern and sleek. You could probably find one on eBay. It was a sexy bag for some reason it just isn’t a part of the conversation right now.

FO30: What 3 handbag styles or silhouettes do you feel every woman over 30 must own now?

MB: Easily a crossbody, easily a tote and then I think you have your choice there. You can go backpack, satchel or hobo because all three of those are more trend whereas the other ones are more a staple.

FO30: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

MB: You men in life? That’s a hard one. Even at my age I am looking for my ultimate mentor but I get to mentor other people now as part of the CFDA which is a great feeling. I think in general I’d say finding what your passion is trying to pursue that with the most integrity you can and really plot your course. Think about strategy and look at the big picture and don’t caught up in the details.

FO30: Lastly, what’s next for Botkier?

MB: Jewelry and then foot wear. Jewelry will come out for spring ’16 and foot wear for spring ’17. The jewelry will be available at Bloomingdales (I’ve seen it and it’s amazing for the price points $28-$198. Trust.) and on botkier.com.

NOVEMBER SAMPLE SALE

If you live in or are visiting NYC November 16-20, 2015 be sure to check out the Botkier sample sale where you can save up to 75% off on one-of-a-kind bags!

8:30am- 6pm

148 W. 37th St., 14th Floor (between 7th & Broadway)

 

– Lauren Dimet Waters

Video: Fountain Of 30

 

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