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What It's Really Like To Launch An Indie Handbag Line
The handbag market is a pretty crowded corner of the fashion industry to truly make a mark: It's populated with O.G. It bags by, say, Gucci or Louis Vuitton, that's immediately identifiable by familiar logos, and the occasional, stealthily-appearing newcomer (hey there, Mansur Gavriel) that's suddenly slung on the shoulders of seemingly every fashion editor and street style star. But what's it like to transition from working behind the scenes for other designers, to taking a stab at running your own show? Just ask accessories designer Gretchen Maull, who debuted her label, GG Maull, last year.
She started her career as a studio assistant at Proenza Schouler in 2006, back when the luxury label was just four years old, and it's where she first realized she wanted to have her own line. Stints at brands like Missoni and Oscar de la Renta followed; she then joined the accessories design team at Calvin Klein, helping conceive a diffusion line (Calvin Klein White) from scratch, down to the hardware. After cutting her teeth on "Made In Italy" design for contemporary and luxury names, Maull wanted to get experience on a more mass brand with production based in China. It was also a label her teen self (and, likely, yours too) would appreciate: Juicy Couture. That job, coupled by a family incident that jolted Maull's career goals into perspective (more on that later) led the Bay Area native to get moving on her own brand, ASAP.
Some serendipitously-salvaged leftovers from her Juicy gig were Maull's starter stock for GG Maull, an accessories line designed in NYC and produced at a factory in Italy that works with major luxury names like Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. The brand, which is currently carried at boutiques like Intermix (with some department store stockists on the horizon) has been a labor of love. Starting an accessories company from scratch means doing everything from hustling for celebrity cameos to taking an emergency trip to Italy (where she works with a team she dubs her surrogate "famiglia") when there's a hiccup in production. Ahead, Maull shows us the process of creating and cultivating a luxury handbag label from the ground up.
What prompted you to go to Juicy Couture? "I wanted to see what it was like to manufacture handbags in China. I also was curious to learn how a more vertically-integrated company was run, and how to revamp an old brand. Plus. my 13-year-old self could not say no to working at Juicy Couture..."
How impactful are celebrity placements, and what it's been like to get your bags on celebs' arms, competinf with well-known names? "Seeing someone else wearing something you created it the best feeling. When it's a celebrity wears a GG Maull handbag, it's like the ultimate cool girl vote of confidence. As a smaller brand, it's such an amazing moment to have someone [frequently seen on] the red carpet support you. We all know that the major players in the industry pay celebs to carry their bags and feature them in ad campaigns, so when the person chooses GG Maull, it goes to show how much she loves the bag and connects with the brand. Having that support early on just brings more and more eyes to my collection. And makes me feel like I am not totally crazy for quiting my day job to follow my dream."
Stones factor in heavily to your designs: Where do you source them, and why is that a big part of the aesthetic? "I'm a Cali girl, and have always been drawn to nature's beauty. As a child on school field trips, I loved playing with the Tiger's Eye and Fool's Gold rocks. As an adult, I spend more time at the Evolution store then I care to admit. Sometimes, your designs don't come out at all like you'd planned; the crystal studs I started incorporated on some of my bags came out exactly as I'd imagined. I was over the moon and began putting them on all my designs. Most of our stones are sourced in Southeast Asia, India, and China; I try to make sure that I can get the highest quality I can at the best price."
New Indie Handbag Collection GG Maull Behind The Scenes