Karina's Bags | an ever changing collection | Handmade leather handbags |
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In The Press

I started making clothes, all be it for Tiny Tears and Tressy dolls when I was about six. My mum had been a sample tailoress in the 1950's and I had a thriving backstep business selling these outfits to my friends for sixpence a piece, but desperation would sometimes bring about a swap for the latest Bunty comic!

This sewing obsession continued, and by the time I was attending grammar school I was attempting to copy dresses from the latest Biba catalogue with pieces of fabric I found on local market stalls. By the time I was 16 I had become a typical teenage rebel and swanned off to London, with the help of National Express coaches, to seek my fortune! I ended up doing a bit designing for "Miss Mouse" in Kensington in 1972, they made facsimiles of rockabilly clothes in acid bright colours, brave at a time when most people were wearing cheesecloth shirts and Indian print skirts! I moved on to theatrical costume design, but spent so much time making clothes for the cast to wear out of work that I decided to set up my own clothing range.

So, in 1982 "Arrivee Peau" was born. With the help of 20 machinists, and lots of contacts from Anne Matthews (Vogue merchandising), I created a range of leather and silk clothing that sold well to independent boutiques throughout the country. I had a section in Fenwicks French Salon in Newcastle and soon we began to export. With the help of a good private customer we began to sell in a shop in Monaco, where even Princess Caroline bought one of my jackets! She contacted me to thank me for her "tres jolie leetle jacket"!

After the birth of my 2nd child, I stopped working because of my family commitments. However, I never stopped making things, it is an obsession! I spent years researching old technical skills and looking at the work of an eclectic mix of designers and artists to give me inspiration. I read every weighty tome about every designer of any consequence, until two years ago when a friend was attending a high society wedding and could not find a bag to match her outfit. For some reason she assumed I could make her one, I had never made a bag in my life! But this favour turned out to be a blessing, as it soon became apparent that this was my natural forte. Reading "Carried Away", by the director of Hermes tuned me in to the historic socio-economic significance of the bag. I was amazed to discover the first record of a bag is from an Algerian cave painting dating back to 600BC!
I have  spent the last two and a half years, honing my skills and developing patterns, until I  finally felt confident to launch my collection publicly, now Karina's bags is 5 year old and has a loyal worldwide customer base.

Every bag is made, from cut to finish, entirely by myself. I seek out trimmings every time I go abroad, All of my trimmings and hardware are vintage, some fittings even date back to 1910. I have a vast collection of buttons and buckles that were inherited from my Grandmother, a milliner, and my mother, a sample tailoress for Hardy Amies in the late 1940's and 50's. This makes each bag unique.
I source my leathers very carefully, to ensure that each design has some unique feature. I will never use the same pattern more than ten times - even then, the design will be repeated in different leathers, with different trimmings. I always use fine English leathers for the exterior of my bags but line them with a heavier hide, so the stress is placed on the lining, we women seem to carry a lot of heavy duty "stuff" in our bags! I have based a lot of my designs around vintage frames from the 1930's and have recently started to use more linear shapes. Designing bags seems to have its own organic form and can be quite sculptural, as you are not working to the confines of body shape. However through my website sales I now have private customers worldwide.
I am constantly surprised at the diversity of my customers and their age range, youngest was 14 and "nagged" her mother for a brown doctor's bag, surprising choice for one so young, the oldest was a very elegant American lady, 86, who had been a model in the 1950's and had even sat for the legendary Irving Penn! She was very complimentary and said my bags reminded her of the way things used to be made before mass production.
The website will be constantly updated with new work as I try to design a bag a day.
I am  very happy I found the courage to enter the fashion arena again at an age most people would consider retiring!

Karina x
trade magazine summer 2007
Crack magazine Summer 2009
European trade magazine
Living North fashion Bible Winter 2010
north east life june 2010
Collezione cover
collezione review

Blogs featuring my work

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