Tonight Yuli and I attended the second annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards, hosted by Handbag Designer 101. The event, which has been unofficially referred to as the “Handbag Oscars,” the “Indy CFDA Awards” and even (jokingly) the “Bag Mitzvahs,” was held at the New York Historical Society building on the Upper West Side.
Despite the rain, New York’s well heeled and even-better-accessorized society showed up to encourage and support the niche industry’s future leaders as well as celebrate one particularly influential and inspiring handbag giant.
After a cocktail hour in the building’s swanky lobby where the objective was to see and be seen while sipping on organic cocktails provided by 360 Vodka, attendants made their way into the auditorium for the ceremonial announcement of the night’s winners. Emily Blumental, founder of Handbag Designer 101 and creator of the IHDA, issued a warm welcome and delivered the news that got bag aficionados twittering with excitement: the legendary Judith Leiber, recipient of the night’s Iconoclast award, was in attendance.
The symbolic importance of Ms. Leiber’s attendance, that a veritable industry icon was there to oversee and support the up and coming design talent was exciting and inspiring. Our friend Pamela Pekerman of bagtrends certainly was enthralled, offering me the interesting trivia tidbit that every first lady since the 1960’s has worn a Judith Leiber bag at the president’s inauguration.
A panel of industry-expert judges selected the winners from five finalists in each category.
The first award of the night was in the category of the Best Student Made Handbag, which went to Clara Yoo, a graduate of Parsons in New York, for her oversized canvas bag.
The award for the Best Handmade Handbag—that is, bags crocheted, knitted, and sewn by hand, was awarded to Darren Wallace. Among other things, Wallace won a new sewing machine by Singer, which will likely be a welcome and useful prize after piecing together bags by hand.
In the category of the Best Green Handbag, the finalists’ bags were made out of sustainable, recycled or organic materials. Helen Macoschamer of Ecoist received the honor for her ‘portfolio’ bag made of repurposed candy wrappers.
Continuing in a similar vein, Kendall Farrell, Executive Director of fabulous charity, Bottomless Closet, came on stage to announce the winner in the category of the most socially responsible handbag. These bags must meet certain ethical and moral standards in regards to production, employment, and philanthropy. The winner was Bridget Reid of “Peace for your heart" Alpaca. PYPH’s story is one worthy of admiration: not only is PFYH’s alpaca fleece derived from shepherd families in the remote Andies of Peru, but the company also returns a portion of every sale to local Peruvian children.
Next it was time to announce the Audience Fan Favorite, as chosen by the users of Bag, Borrow or Steal. Thousands of votes were cast and the winner was Suzanna Scarola of Bellabags, who had lost earlier in the category of Best Green Handbag. As the winner of the Fan Favorite, Scarola’s bag will be up on BBoS for borrowing or stealing.
The last and arguably most awaited category—Best Handbag in Overall Style and Design, or the handbag world’s “Best Picture” award, was presented by Jana Hanci, CEO of LaunchBags, the night’s underwriting sponsor. The award went to Lui Antinous, a Malan Breton-like character with impossibly perfect hair and impeccable refinement.
Find out more about the winning bags at Handbag Designer 101.