Tell us how you got your start on fashion.
My mother was in fashion illustration. She drew croquis and I wanted to imitate her so I started doing some illustration myself. As a teen, I started designing textiles and doing some bag illustrations for fun. I went to boarding school and I distinctly remember our final project required us to come up with our own symbolic alphabet. My creation was to draw a handbag alphabet - 26 different handbag illustrations that represented each letter of the alphabet. That was probably my first foray into bags.
Did you get formal training?
I went to RISD and studied apparel design. I entered a CFDA competition during my junior year and I chose to do accessories instead of a clothing competition. I didn’t win but the reception was so positive from the faculty and my fellow classmates that I decided to continue in accessories rather than apparel.
After graduating, I interned with Patti Wilson, a fashion director at Italian Vogue and was also a stylist for Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, Baby Phat... My role was to support her on a bunch of different photoshoots. When she saw how I worked with prints and patterns, she hired me to work specifically on fabric styling for her collections.
When did the idea for your own brand come about?
It was actually my mom who came up with the suggestion when I was about 25. I was initially really wary since I didn’t think I had enough experience but then decided to take the plunge.
I wanted to create something with an old and luxurious aesthetic. I looked extensively to historic architecture - parts of buildings, ornamentation, etc. I have such a love for architecture and I took a lot of what I saw and used it as inspiration for my bags. I would try textural juxtaposition based on contrasts that I saw like cobblestones in front of a building made from limestone and I would mimic that by contrasting crocodile skins and python with Napa leather and rustic hardware.
Tell us about the early days and the challenges you faced.
I did trade shows, including the White show in Milan. It was a ton of outreach to buyers and editors. There were some people who really believed in me from the start and made intros that were very helpful.
I have a pretty interesting story about how I got some of my early sales. I used to go to the old Pastis quite frequently and knew the maitre’d. One night I was there, I noticed a young woman with her friends and I immediately took note of her bag: it was vintage and was absolutely gorgeous. I remember going up to her and complementing her bag and mentioned that I was a handbag designer. We had a conversation and she ended up really loving a number of my pieces from my high-end bespoke line. It turns out that she was a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family and I ended up shipping a whole bunch of my things to her in Paris and that's how our relationship started. A lot of it is meeting people and getting introductions.
The way that I found my factories in India was also super serendipitous. I was at a book signing for Catherine Malandrino (I was a huge fan of hers) back in 2018. I went with my friend who wore these incredible leather pants and there was a very stylish couple that was sitting near us. The wife of the couple commented on my friend’s pants and when my friend mentioned that I work in the leather industry, the husband’s ears perked up. It turns out he’s an investor in Givenchy and very connected in the retail industry in India. He asked if I would have any interest in working with Indian factories. It was a bit of a challenge because many factories cannot work with exotic skins which were my specialty but I ended up finding a partner that I really liked and we came up with a collection that was primarily focused on cow, lamb, and goat skins which were acceptable.
What did you want to create with VF x Victoire Focx?
It’s all about creating a line of versatile pieces that are multi-use. I was actually inspired by buildings in midtown, especially since many of them are multi-use and multi-purpose. All of my bags can be worn in multiple ways, including as a tote, as a shoulder bag, and as an oversize clutch. Perfect for any and every day!