Born in the South of France, Agathe has always loved to travel. Portofino has long been the designer’s most beloved sanctuary and primary source of inspiration for her 4 year-old line.
Ms. Planchon currently resides in San Diego, California where she owns and operates the Gustto brand.
SCS: How did you come to design handbags? What is the story behind your line?
AP: I actually used to be in the corporate world, not as a designer, but as a technology executive. Motivated by the allure of Portofino and life on the Riviera, I wanted to create a perfect accessory for the modern, glamorous, fashion-forward woman. I started designing luxury leather PDA and Blackberry covers. I wanted to bridge the gap between fashion and technology. It turned out to be the wrong trend. Instead people started using those plastic covers. Everything that went into making my covers was from France and was top quality. I knew I would have to adjust for the American market so I then created a high-quality leather clutch that held a PDA. I used colors like pink, blue and green and mixed it with studs and hardware.
My new focus was fashion meets technology meets business and the computer bag came next. So jumping into large bags was really jumping into fashion. My first handbag design, the Sola City bag became my first big seller. You have to remember at that time there were not as many handbag designers as there are today. This was also before clothing fashion designers got in on the act.
SCS: Was there a turning point or defining moment for Gustto?
AP: I was attending a show in Geneva and I saw a rich, sophisticated American woman on a yacht carrying my bag. It took my breath away. It was a very rewarding moment.
Then I noticed women in NYC started carrying the bag. The leather is very soft and back then there were not many choices for bags that have a French look, touch and quality.
SCS: Who are some of your celebrity clients?
AP: Uma Thurman, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba, Hallie Berry and Jessica Simpson are the first ones that come to mind.
SCS: Which styles are the most popular?
AP: The Parina and Setela and Big Baca Patent. Oversized bags or totes came into fashion and thankfully I was ahead of the trend. Some of the newer styles are the Victoria and Renassino. They are sophisticated, edgy, high-end and creative.
Gustto Renassino Bag
SCS: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
AG: Believe in yourself and be true to who you are. Listen, be persistent, understand the market and never stop!
SCS: How well received are your bags in urban environments like Chicago and New York?
AG: In NYC women leave for work and tend to go right out afterwards so they need to carry what they need for the entire day. Therefore they tend to like the larger bags. They like the Parina and Setela because the are large, not outrageous and easy to carry. In L.A. they tend to like the smaller sized bags and neutral colors that go with everything.
SCS: Where do you see yourself/business in 10 years?
AG: I see Gustto as a worldwide brand. I really see it as a global market. We are currently expanding in the Middle East and Asia. We recently opened a corner store in Bahrain. A Gustto travel collection is being released soon. After all I travel a lot. We also plan on adding a denim line and other products in the upcoming months. It’s important to have your own identity and stand for who you are in this global market.
* Don’t forget to sign up for Second City Style’s December giveaway! You could win a Gustto Renassino Bag or shop online at gustto.com.
– Lauren Dimet Waters