I parked the car, walked towards the office building and instantly recognized the CC Skye sign on the office door. As I walked into the office I received a warm welcome and loved the California-coast vibe that I was picking up on. Without surprise, I was warmly welcomed. Everyone in the office seemed as interested to meet me as I was to meet them (always a good sign… if you ask me). As I met CC, we walked into her office which was adorned with handbags, accessories, sketches and notes to herself and others. As we both sat down, she told me about the new office and how it’s not only an office but also a space where some of the actual manufacturing is done. The background was full of music and the noise generated by machines which help to craft some of her amazing designs.
I began in with the questions and quickly realized that although I was conducting an interview, it was as if I was conducting an interview with a long time friend. Sure we hit all the topics I wanted to share with you, but our side notes were just as much fun. CC’s youthful, fun and chic approach to life is definitely emulated through her designs.
PB: How did you originally get started?
CC Skye: I was working for MTV as an intern during college and then I worked my way up from Production Assistant, to Researcher, to Associate Producer, to Segment Producer, and then one summer we went on hiatus. I was feeling very creative and was wandering in downtown LA in the jewelry district, and ended up walking into one of the greatest manufactures who took me in and became my mentor. I sat with him every day and he taught me everything about jewelry. I always worked with my hands and I have always been very design oriented. MTV was naturally cutting edge and very trendy which was also a very inspiring environment to be in. I started pitching the line to Elle right away and within a week I had a positive reaction from them, as they requested samples for one of their upcoming stories. The next week Gen Art called and said that I was nominated for Best New Accessories Designer. It all happened so fast, it was really two weeks after the line launched, and I didn’t even know how they heard about it. It was a fabulous windfall, and the attention we were getting was amazing, random and crazy. It went on from there. After a year or two, Nicole Richie started to wear a lot of our bracelets and that was a wildfire; we sold millions of that bracelet, it was insane. At that time we were working a lot with leather. I was drawn to working with leather throughout the whole line, and the jewelry line is really based around leather and gold hardware. Organically, at our jewelry factory, we came up with the idea of starting a handbag line based more around hardware because that’s what we knew, that was our talent. We thought of some amazingly fierce hardware and then built a bag collection around that. Everything is 18 karat gold plated, and originally everything was hand crafted in the jewelry factory, so that’s how we started. Again it was one of those lets just try it, and it had a really good response.
PB: How did you first get started in design?
CC Skye: During college I was in a semester abroad in Nepal, which is North of India. I went there to film a documentary and to get away from the busy California lifestyle for awhile, and I ended up starting to design jewelry and clothing and handbags. I started making pieces because it was a third world country and there were no stores. I took upholstery fabric that they used in Tibetan monasteries, where they have these silk dragons and I thought to make a skirt out of it. It wasn’t until I was in Nepal that I was actually thinking that I could make my own garments, because if I wanted my Los Angeles fashion, I was going to have to find alternative sources. I had no choice – I was out there in the Himalayas: no roads, no electricity. I brought hiking boots and everything I would not normally wear. I was challenging myself to live a different way and I ended up really adapting to that lifestyle. I learned that I can be patient enough to sit there and sew. The mentality of the west is to go out and buy what we want, so it forced me to sit there and make the pieces that I wanted to wear, and longed for from home. In the first year of jewelry production, I handmade everything myself and I think it boiled down to two-thousand pieces of jewelry that was handmade by me because it was small line just starting.
PB: Do you think you have different inspiration for your jewelry as opposed to your handbags, or do you think it overlaps?
CC Skye: I think it does overlap. The jewelry is so vast, with every collection there is about five stories. We were inspired by the Art Deco Movement in costume jewelry, so we did things like the Deco Clutch and the Bardot Bag. The Bardot Bag has deco elements in the angles of the hardware and the lines of the bag that reflect that era. We do crossover trends, we could do deco meets disco. I think that it’s a natural evolution, it’s organic and it just happens, we don’t force it. We’ve done really well with our 80’s style cobra bracelet. We’re thinking about putting the cobra bracelets as bag straps, just really 80’s. In terms of inspiration, right now were really inspired by for the first time by smaller bags. We really design this for the “it” girl as we are based in LA it is our element.
PB: If you had to pick between functionality and style which one would you go for?
CC Skye: I would have to say, that I generally pick style over function. However, as I get older, functionally is just more practical and comfortable. I use to suffer in my huge 6 inch platforms, but I don’t know that I would today. However, I like to create pieces that are both fashion forward and functional.
PB: Would you say that the transitions you go through affect the bags you make?
CC Skye: I think we’re definitely flashier than most – that’s kind of what were good at, that’s what we know and I don’t think we can change that. I’ve moved on and learned a lot more about wearability vs. just trying to make a design statement. We’re always sitting in our design office debating if that something is an amazing design, but is it also wearable? You have to find a balance and that’s part of the challenge.
PB: When you think about the evolution of the line, do you think it has changed a lot since you have first started?
CC Skye: We started off very hardware based and now were balancing it more. We came in as experts in hardware, metal and jewelry, and then had to learn to be the expert in handbags as well. So you learn to be an expert in the leather and the expert in stitching, and we had a head-start in the hardware and I think we’ve rounded it out a lot in terms of becoming more of a handbag brand. It’s becoming a lot more balanced.
PB: Have you seen trends in areas of the country/world which pick up on your bags?
CC Skye: Out here in LA we are a lot more color oriented. New York is definitely more conservative, but I tend to like neutrals also. We don’t try and be someone else because I don’t think anyone is ever good at that. Australia is like the sister city to LA they just get us and adore LA so they love the brand. The Middle East, like Dubai, love color, the glamour, and gold. There’s something about the LA thing. Now since the Hollywood scene came on so strong in fashion, it really validated us being from LA. Everyone is following what the celebrities are wearing more than what designers are doing. Celebrity worn products have the most purchase power. It’s such a important point in time it is for me to be a contemporary designer right now. Go back to the 80’s, who were the contemporary designers? Everything was about big names and big conglomerates. Who paid attention to the smaller designers, who even gave them a chance?
PB: Celebrities are photographed with your bags and/or accessories all the time, do you remember the first time you saw someone or heard of someone carrying your bag or accessory?
CC Skye: Actually the first one was jewelry, and it was Britney Spears. Britney Spears was performing a concert and she wore one of the first pieces I have ever made. It happened to be a year after I made it but it was still the very first piece. It was lots of multi-chain before the whole chain trend took off. I was watching the concert live, and I knew that I hand made it myself, and there were all these chains I was like if that thing falls off her the whole show is over and I’m dead. When she went off stage I was like Oh thank God. Jewelry is so delicate, you know it could pop up at any minute. So that was the first and it was really exciting. It’s funny because you almost get immune to it, your like oh look there’s another picture of Miley. You wait for that day when you don’t even react and I think were kind of there, like the pictures of Miley Cyrus and all the other ones that come through. There are still ones that I get excitied about like Sienna Miller, Lauren Conrad has been wearing a lot and she’s great, Paris has worn the Niki clutch, Amanda Bynes, Audrina, and Katherine Heigl.
PB: Do they come into your office to look at the bags?
CC Skye: No they don’t, but the door is always open….
PB: Where do you see your accessories and handbags going? Do you think you will keep going the way you are, or do you think you will try and branch out and do anything else?
CC Skye: I think the best thing we can do right now is keep staying focused and doing what we’re good at.
PB: With being as busy as you are, with all the different things you are juggling at once, do you take vacations?
CC Skye: Yes, we go to Asia a few times a year to go to factories, and then head to the gorgeous beaches of Thailand for a few days. In the beginning I wouldn’t really take vacations. I would leave my business and my email would be blowing up and I only had one employee in the office and she would be dying. There was no time back in the day, but getting a good support staff, it’s all about relinquishing control and trusting everyone else to do their work, so you can step away.
PB: What do you think your favorite thing to do in LA is, what would you say to someone who has never been to LA, what is the one thing they have to do?
CC Skye: I love Malibu, it’s where I live. The stigma about Malibu is that you move there when you are rich and famous, and then at one point in my life I decided that I was going to move there long before then. It’s very movie star central, whatever, but it’s also really down to earth too. It’s actually becoming a little fashion mecca. But Monday to Friday it’s just locals, at the Coffee Bean, it’s just really chill. Everyone has this idea that it is really fancy, but it is really down to earth. It’s more of a beach town before anything else, so that’s my favorite part. I love the Beverly Hills Hotel, I think it’s so pretty and lunch there is great. Robertson is great, you have to go once, it’s small when you think about it, I think people come from parts of the world and think it’s going to be like Park Avenue or Madison Avenue but it’s tiny. But everything in LA is so spread out.