With Paris fashion week coming to an end today, it is only a short while until we begin hearing about the AW13 trends. Having worked at a trend forecasting company, I know the process of whittling down key styles, from whole looks to bag and heel sizes. The thing about the recent shows however was that, for me, it all seemed a bit...blah. A bit overworked. A bit not-wearable. Perhaps that's a harsh and biased criticism, but don't you think the practicality of fashion is just as vital as the innovation?
One designer who has challenged this straight on is recent LCF graduate Monika Lesniewska. She has designed a leather clutch bag collection that is individually moulded to the shape of your hand. Inspired by the relationship between a craftsman's tools and the human grip, the bags are finished in a tan and grey leather and come in varying shapes and sizes. They belong, quite literally, in your hand.
"I was inspired by how people hold things in different ways'" Monika explains. "The bags create a negative space of their own; the design goes into itself as the hand shape is moulded into the leather. It's all about how you would like to hold something rather than then the other way around."
The bags are minimal, sleek and truly unique; the original shape is crafted out of chicken wire and clay, with each bag tailored to your personal grip. It's almost like a fingerprint. "I didn't want to think about it commercially," Monika details. "They're all bespoke. The beautiful thing about it is that the vegetable dyed leather will change the more you touch it. The bags have unique and natural qualities; they will age with you the more you handle them."
I recently viewed Monika's collection at the LCF MA preview and it was interesting to gauge people's response to her work. Most were instantly drawn to her designs, picking up the bags and trying to fit the grip; almost like matching a key with a lock. Of course, only Monika holds that key as it was her hands the bags were created from. "I don't see the purpose of doing separate menswear and womenswear lines," Monika says. "These bags are people's silent companions; every one will have unique stains and marks to it with use. My bags need to be subtle and gender-less as it's all about the tactility. The women's bags are slightly softer in shape and feel, but none follow a pattern."
All of the bags are hand stitched and require 2-3 hours of skill and patience to set the leather into the correct shape. "I became disillusioned working in fashion over the years," Monika explains. "Natural faults in a material such as leather can be so beautiful; we can use the qualities to our advantage. Plastics have really taken off over the last few seasons but plastic is so cold; there is no invitation to touch."
This is such a key point in fashion progression. We need to love what we buy and ensure that we use it to get the most from our money. Large enough to carry all of the day-to-day essentials, Monika's bags are embedded with a personal touch that isn't available anywhere else. "This was such a natural progression for me," Monika adds. "After all, a bag will go through so many hands in its lifetime."