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Handbag Designer Interview: Mary Norton

source: china textile prints 2009-04-14  



American handbag designer Mary Norton started making handbags on her kitchen table in Charleston, South Carolina, 11 years later her glamorous little evening necessities are the most sought-after Red Carpet accessories.

Mary Norton is considered one of the most original accessory designers with evening clutches and handbags that have garnered an impressive A-List celebrity following including Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Tina Fey, Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Lopez.

Pictured above is Mary Norton while attending the Costume Designers Guild Awards Dinner wearing a Teri Jon dress, jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels and finished off with her gorgeous crimson red satin Roseanna clutch. (The Roseanna was also worn by Taraji P. Henson and Miley Cyrus at the 2009 Academy Awards)

For her latest spring collection, if you love fun vibrant colors, checkout the delicious Candy Collection. There are so many gorgeous bags in this bunch, definitely my favorite selection. Each bag features layers of custom dyed ostrich feathers - turquoise, purple and green & raspberry, yellow, orange and white. The Roberta with Swarovski crystals and Ginny are worth taking a look at. Price range is $795 to $995 for the clutches and $495 for the shoes.

Also featured for Spring 2009 is the flashy Disco Fever, and as the name suggests, this collection is filled with disco patterns and metallic shades. The yellow Rhianna is my favorite, it’s the perfect clutch day-to-night clutch. Price range is $595 to $695 for the clutches and $445 to $595 for the shoes.

Also don’t forget to check out the new for Fall 2009 Peace on Earth clutch. As featured on E! the hard box clutch features laser cut calf hair, adorned with Swarovski stones. Available for pre-order.

And I recently got the opportunity to exchange a Q + A with this fabulous designer.

Jennifer: Where do you get your inspiration when designing a new collection?
Mary Norton: I tend to be a designer that designs around themes. I therefore will become inspired by places that I visit, movies that I’ve seen, or elements of nature.

The genesis of the Spring 2009 collection was unusual for me, in that the original inspiration came from a sense of taste (candy) because I was on a diet! I was in an airport traveling (as usual) and there, like some glittering mirage, was the most amazing candy stand in the world. It had the most beautiful display of gorgeous candies in the most decadent colors, and the most delicious smells, emanating from the fresh fudge, cotton candy, and hand dipped chocolates being made right there on the spot! It was this terrible temptation that was that the launch point for the Spring 2009 collection.

Jennifer: And what was your inspiration behind this season?

Mary Norton: Once the initial sense of “Taste” was translated into candy it began my whole Five Senses theme. I took each sense and converted it into an object that represented that sense. “Sight” is the collection in its entirety. The sense of “Sound” is represented by disco music which was translated into the collection by using embroidered “vinyl records” and disco ball jewel pieces. Using a highly stylized fantasy orchid in the collection captured the sense of “Smell”. The swirling motion of the sea represents the sense of “Touch” by utilizing spiral patterns and embroidered translucent sea kelp.
Jennifer: What was your very first handbag that you created?

Mary Norton: The first handbag I created was a black satin evening bag with bright green Cymbidium Orchids and a big pink bow on it. It was very similar to my first “celebrity” bag that Julia Lois-Dreyfus carried in 1998 to the Emmys.
Jennifer: Which handbag are you carrying at the moment?

Mary Norton: The Rosette Bag in black patent leather.

Jennifer: And what are some items that you can’t leave the house without?
Mary Norton: Keys, Blackberry (I know, but I’m totally Crackberry hooked), Carmex (I’m obsessive about Carmex like the Dad on “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was about Windex…I think Carmex can cure anything), Platinum Amex, Passport (you never know if a grocery shopping trip may lead to a quick side trip to Minsk…be prepared I say), Vintage Sunglasses, Orbitz gum, Sony SureShot (inspiration hits at strange times), cash (I never seem to have any of this, but I thought I’d put it down for fun anyway… my hubby will laugh).

Jennifer: All of your bags are so exquisite and beautiful, but if you had to pick one as your favorite, which would it be?

Mary Norton: Yikes, this is like having to pick which child you like the best. I think it might hurt the other bag’s feelings! Seriously, I do have many favorites however for daytime, our Rosette bag is a classic that I have literally carried the sample for three years now, so that would label it by sheer use as a favorite. For evening, this is a much tougher choice but I would have to go with any version of the Roseanna (I seem to have a thing for “Rose…” bags) this is because I am a fidgety person and I love to play with the long tassel as well as the fun movement of the tassel when you walk or dance.

Jennifer: I read somewhere that you describe yourself as a “red carpet bag lady”. How does it feel, describe your emotion when you see celebrities on the Red Carpet, attending movie premieres or while at fashion events, wearing one of your beautiful pieces?

Mary Norton: My daughters and I are red carpet junkies. My poor husband has to go to the back room when any random awards show comes on so that we can do our red carpet watch. The thrill of seeing one of my designs carried by a beautiful woman, whether it is a celebrity or a stranger walking down the street, never gets old for me. I am always amazed and humbled that someone is carrying one of my designs. I have been known to stop people on the street and thank them for wearing my bags and shoes…so watch out!

Jennifer: Who are some other designers out there that you admire?

Mary Norton: I am a huge fan and student of the couture masters: Cristobal Balenciaga, Clare McCardell, Yves St. Laurent, Charles James, Valentino, Norman Norell, and of course Christian Dior.

Jennifer: If you weren’t in the fashion industry, what would you be doing instead?

Mary Norton: I was in the film business prior to the fashion business and have a love for both industries. If the fashion business ever kicked me out (which would kill me), I’d consider going back to the film business. I don’t think I could ever have a real job .