The best of independent handbag designers were awarded this week at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards 2015. Makers from all over the world participated with their passion projects. It is one of my favorite industry awards as it truly celebrates and elevates indie designers without the distracting factors of celebs, paparazzi, and red carpets.
The event is the dream of designer Emily Blumenthal. It was a way to bring recognition to the legions of independent labels who made handbags. Now in its ninth year, winners of the awards now land spreads in InStyle magazine, receive mentorships at huge brands, debut their collections at Bloomingdale's and are carried on the arms of top celebrities.
What always struck me about these awards was the sincere involvement of established designers themselves. One of the first iconoclast lifetime achievement recipients was Carlos Falchi. Ever since the first awards show, he was so inspired by the event that he remained to involve and mentor future years as the unofficial Godfather of the awards until his recent passing. Blumenthal gave a wonderful tribute to the designer and his daughter was on hand to present the last award of the night.
What I always loved about this competition was that it not only elevated the craft and recognition of design talent, but it rewarded humanity in the field as well. The most inspiring categories (long before it became fashionable) are ones like Best Green Handbag, won this year by Sugandh Agrawal of Gunas Handbags. She is committed to making her collection sweatshop-free and ethically produced. Her winning bag was made from biodegradable canvas and recycled lining.
There is also the most Socially Responsible Handbag won by Ana Maria Plata of Leonor Designs. She worked with the Kuna community of Columbia to create traditional textiles called Molas. She then incorporated them into trendy, contemporary handbags.
This year's recipient of the Iconoclast award was Rebecca Minkoff. Together with her brother, she was an emerging fashion designer herself during the first year of these awards and has grown into an international "IT" brand in the years since.
Bravo to all of the Independent Handbag Designer Award Winners this year. You will find that hard work, passion and creativity do pay off here. I can't wait to see where you'll be next year!