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Inside the mind of a handbag designer

What the Vatinel brand stands for

The starting point

I started my adult life as an actress. I had studied drama in Paris, where I lived for many years, before going on to work in the theater, cinema and television. At that time – a time of innocence – the sense of starting out as an artist in a city with so many stimuli, the dreams, great expectations and sheer enthusiasm are among the most wonderful things I can remember in life. At some point, however, working as an actress no longer fulfilled me. I felt that I had lost the need to present myself before an audience. I yearned for something equally creative but more private, through which I could express myself in a different way and be independent. And because life is full of chapters, I one day came to the realization that this particular chapter had ended.

The next chapter

Soon after this realization, I started designing the Vatinel range of bags. I had always loved handbags; to me they represented the secret world of every woman, including my own. A portable secret world, protected from the prying eyes of those around. I began designing handbags for myself but also as birthday and Christmas gifts for friends. I chose the patterns and materials, striving always to encapsulate in the handbags the personality of the women I made them for.

While working on the designs, I discovered a new source of inspiration – architecture. I wanted the handbags to incorporate architectural elements, to have harmony, functionality and balance. I also wanted to make bags that stand the test of time, that age gracefully with you, in an enduring relationship as a trusted companion.

Inspiration

In recent years I have travelled a lot, almost all over the world. My peregrinations around various cities, their architecture, the colors, and the people who passed by me, have been my main source of inspiration for the handbags I design. When you are open to the stimuli around you, in some magical way they gravitate toward you. I am deeply moved by elegance and harmony. And as a French woman, I learned from an early age that these two concepts usually spring from refinement – of people, of materials, and of intentions.

Elegance is a life stance. It is a matter of how true we are to ourselves and to others. When you have managed to purge yourself of whatever is superfluous, keeping only the essence, finesse follows at a galloping pace.

Relationships

I am a firm believer in the “chemistry” between people, in their interaction. My choice of friends and collaborators has always been based on instinct. And so far I have been very fortunate in this respect. In my opinion, there is absolutely no point in maintaining difficult relationships that cause distress. We cannot get along with everyone, nor should we devote our energy to people who hold us back. When I co-founded the Vatinel brand with Philippe, we were already connected through a family relationship and shared common experiences, and we trusted each other implicitly. Without this trust we would not have been able to build anything. I also believe in diversity and dialogue. Disagreeing with someone can be very interesting. When you respect others, you often discover a point of view that had eluded you. And this gives you a more comprehensive understanding of things.

Personal style

I usually dress to my mood, but generally speaking my style is smart casual and I do not follow fashion. I like monochrome clothes and straight geometric lines. I love biker boots and sneakers. Very often I have something red on me; it may be a handbag, a scarf, a pair of shoes. I also attach great importance to the materials of my clothes. In winter, most of my clothing is made of wool or cashmere. In summer, I prefer cotton, linen and viscose.

When I was studying drama in Paris, after performances or rehearsals we frequently went out for a drink in our stage clothes, which were often period costumes. People would look at us and we would carry the look. It was at this time when I learned that style is all about how much you can carry what you are wearing, the extent to which it becomes part of what you are and the way you think.

Favorite quote

A line from a poem by the French poet René Char, that reminds me that the only way to success is to keep going, to persevere, no matter what.

Impose ta chance, serre ton bonheur et va vers ton risque. À te regarder, ils s’habitueront.” 

Trust firmly in your luckcling to your happiness and dare to take risks. They will see you and learn to accept you.

Photo credits: N. Vardakastanis

Website: https://vatinel.com/

Instagram: @vatinel_official

Facebook: @vatinel.bags

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