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Bag Lady

Nancy Gonzalez—one of the most celebrated handbag designers in the world—comes to Bal Harbour.

Nancy Gonzalez—one of the most celebrated handbag designers in the world—is making a special appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue this week to preview her Spring 2013 collection. We caught up with the Colombian-born designer to discuss her coveted and classic bags, the women who inspire her and which designers she'll be wearing this season.

Besides the incredible skins you use for your bags, the brand is best known for its bold color palette. How do you choose colors each season?
Several months out of the year, I travel to various places around the globe with my little camera and record visual inspiration that nourish my creativity. Once I return to Colombia I compose an elaborate inspiration board with my drawings and a collage of a million things that have caught my eye, as well as a color palette that creates a delicious visual story.  
Are there certain colors you're constantly drawn to?
They always change but I am usually drawn to rich bold colors.

When did it click for you that this was your calling?
I was looking for something that came from inside, that made me feel complete. Something in which I could explore and develop my personal skills and at the time express my creativity. I love accessories and my friends always encouraged me to do something in the realm of fashion. At the time I was particularly interested in belts and had an extensive collection, so I intuitively began designing them using precious skins. And this is how it all started…
You quote Diana Vreeland on your website. Who else inspires you?
Women with vision, individuality, uniqueness, of distinctive taste and personal style. Women with absolute and original freedom who celebrate life have always inspired me. From the exuberant Marchesa Luisa Casati, to the impeccable Duchess of Windsor, and the masterful  Catherine the Great. From Josephine Baker’s hypnotic movements and Celia Cruz’s magical rhythms. From the Venus de Milo's perfect beauty to Frida Kalo's imperfect beauty, Victoire de Samothrace, the embodiment of freedom… to name a few.

The New Work tote.

Are there any pieces in the Spring collection that are exclusive to Saks?
A soft portfolio clutch with a top zipper and two outside pockets that I am calling the new work tote. With the world becoming more and more paperless, this clutch fits an iPad perfectly in the outside pocket and you can keep your personal life inside the zipper compartment. It is utilitarian yet feminine and can certainly take you to a night out on the town.

 You speak to an international audience with your line, what do you think contributes to its global appeal?
My clients are the heart of my brand, and happiness is at its origin. Everyone needs a joyful experience when shopping for a new bag, no matter where in the world you live. I believe in inspiring style, not dictating fashion.

 Tell us about the Two x Two Project you participated in last year. You worked with some great artists!
The Two x Two project was something my son Santiago worked on. He has been collecting art for years, a very personal passion of his independent of his work at Nancy Gonzalez. While visiting Dallas, Jim Gold, the President of Neiman Marcus, introduced him to the illustrious philanthropists and collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky. They quickly recommended a great project of creating 10 unique bags with 10 world-class artists to support two great causes: amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art. It was an incredible experience to see my leaf totes turned into pieces of art. More importantly we raised over $400,000 for two great causes.
Do you have plans for any upcoming projects/collaborations?
Surprises, surprises, surprises…

Tell us about your art and design collection. Who are some of your favorite artists?
I love the work of Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne. Just like them I see nature not only as inspiration but also as a collaborator. Yves Klein Blue is perhaps my favorite color, next to pre-Columbian gold. I like minimal art, Fontana; I keep a red one in my New York office. Manzoni, I'm mostly drawn to "Arte Povera". In furniture I love Jean Royere and Herve Vanderstraeten. There are two Colombian artists I love; Olga de Amaral, I love her large Gold dipped tapestries, and Doris Salcedo. My son is the one that got me into Doris as he collects her.

Crocodile top-handle bag.

Which contemporary designers are on your radar right now?
I usually have the same to go to list. I like Rick Owens, Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe, Haider Ackermann (who happens to be Colombian but raised in Belgium) lately for furs I have been going to Givenchy and most of my wardrobe is navy blue and back. Celine also becomes part of my wardrobe depending on the season, but the previous are always a must and have been for many years. For jewelry, either JAR or Buccellati.
What do you have on your Miami agenda?
The birth of my daughter's second child who is named after my son Santiago, so he will be Baby Santiago.
Meet Nancy Gonzalez on Thursday, March 14, 3-5 p.m. at Saks Fifth Avenue. 

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