In part two of our ongoing designer interview series, we had the pleasure of meeting the awarded
accessories designer Devi Kroell
. With all the hype surrounding the person, the omnipresent name, the industry recognition for her work, Vlad and I had a tingling feeling of nervousness entering the building in which we were scheduled to meet her at. Her showroom was literally packed
with accessories from her current lineup, fall collections, big shipping boxes and a handful of computer desks occupied by Devi's busy staff, scouring media and working PR contacts. There was not much room to navigate, but we were assured that the operation was going to move to a bigger showroom soon. As long as there was a place for us to view all of the beautiful handbags
, we were happy.
Right as she entered the room, we felt quite at ease. The young designer struck us as amazingly chic and stunning, and well-spoken with a hint of an accent. 'You are Austrian, does that mean you speak German
?' Vlad asked to break the ice. Devi, it turns out, does speak German fluently, along with half a dozen other languages, including Indonesian. As Devi and Vlad conversed in German for a few minutes, I smiled and felt my lack of worldliness becoming disadvantageous.
We learned that Devi has lived around the world, from Europe to Far-East Asia and taken in inspiration from the various cultures, places, and people she had seen and met. Her designs are sleek and clean, offering exciting exotics that come together divinely. The designer is probably best known for her box clutches
, slouchy hobos, and exotic roots. In fact, Devi took a risk and entered the luxury exotics market before exotics were the next big
thing. The risk has definitely paid off and turned her elegant and chic style into the well-known brand that it is today.
We sat down for 45 minutes and learned more about Devi, the person and the designer. Enjoy!
Scroll this look
Slide 1 / 4
PB: We have read that you have lived in many places. Where have you lived?
I lived in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Israel, France, Italy, Switzerland.
PB: Well if anything, no one can claim that you are uncultured! What other languages do you speak?
German, French, Italian, English, and Indonesian. I spent a lot of time in Indonesia. I think Indonesia is a big reason why I am doing so many exotics. You go to the market and there are so many snake and lizard accessories. I think it stuck in my head.
PB: That is great! I know many people are looking for exotic skins now.
Yes, but when I started my company in 2004 and was using these exotic skins it was not so common. People were not using python, you would not see it anywhere. People would look at my bags and ask 'What is this? It is weird, I have never seen it before'. I saw a niche in this area and no one was doing it. At the time everyone was doing logos and I thought there must be a customer out there that is getting sick of all of that and wants something sleek, streamlined, and slouchy. Not to mention I was adding metallics to the bags, and no one was doing that either.
PB: Celebrity style and influence is so huge. Have you seen a huge impact on your company with celebrity exposure?
Jessica Simpson started carrying my Classic Metallic Python Bag and people would be calling asking for the 'Jessica' Bag! Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Sienna Miller have worn my bags. I was really happy when Sienna Miller was spotted carrying my bags. It helped sales tremendously.
PB: So how did you get started in the fashion world?
My background is really fashion. I was at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna
and one of my professors was Helmut Lang. I moved to Paris and worked in the Jewelry Square and working for brands making huge zillion dollar necklaces and so on. And then I decided to try my own company and thought people in the US would be more open to a new designer.
Slide 2 / 4
PB: Why did you choose handbags and shoes rather than jewelry, which you had been working on in Paris?
At that time there was a gap in the handbag market. Bags were not good at that time and I decided it was my chance and I could slowly expand the collection. I added shoes later, and will be adding jewelry. I want to keep on expanding.
PB: Where do you gather inspiration for your designs?
Buildings and architecture. I don't really look at other designers to do my bags. I have a bag that is based on a lamp that I have at home, the Wooden Box clutches are inspired by the New York skyline. It is a different approach. This bag is inspired by an accordion. For me it is about finding some interesting things that do not necessarily have anything to do with bags; it could be architecture, a musical instrument, lamps, but it is almost never a handbag.
Vlad (points to Accordion bag): Is that stingray?
Wow, you are good! How did you go from being a swimmer to bags! This bag is interesting though, it has the stingray, the python in the middle, and then eel.
PB: What was the hardest part about breaking into the fashion industry?
I have to say I was very lucky. I did not really have a hardest part. I think most people think it is difficult to get in, but I think the hardest part is to stay in continue to deliver and grow. In this market it is about what is hot and new, but what do you do when you are not new? You have to do something else to keep people excited.
PB: From your travels, do you find any city has influenced you more or given you more inspiration?
The snake skin from my time in Asia and their prevalence in the markets, the metallics are very French because they do a lot of guilded things, the colors and craftsmanship are very Italian as they are known for strong colors since their Renaissance period, the clean structures are very Austrian as everything there is very perfect and symmetrical.
Slide 3 / 4
PB: To someone that does not know Devi Kroell, how would you describe your designs?
Strong colors, luxurious, for a woman who is very sure of herself, very minimal hardware, always very streamlined.
PB: Who do you like to see wearing your designs?
Everyone really. What I am really proud of is that my designs are worn by teenagers and then 99 year old women. I am very happy about the breadth in my customer base. I am happy when I see anybody wear my bags!
PB: Do you focus on celebrity exposure? Do you really push towards certain celebrities or do you let it happen organically?
Organically. But I want to see Angelina Jolie carrying my bags! I have not seen her carry my bags yet, but I would love to see her carry my bags.
PB: What has been your most memorable moment as a designer?
When I won the CFDA award in 2006. To stand up and see all the big, established designers look at me was very humbling.
PB: How did winning the CFDA award affect your career?
I don't think it did at all, maybe a little bit. But I think it is more of an inside thing, like if you are not in fashion you did not know it happened. It is more of an insider recognition.
PB: What is the next goal that you are striving to achieve?
I would like to open a lot of stores. I have one open now in East Hampton. I really just opened that for the summer and I just wanted to see how it would do. It did so well that the summer store became a year-round store.
PB: What advice would you give to someone trying to make his or her way into the fashion industry?
It is important to create something that people have not seen before. If you are just going to do a copy of something already out there it is not going to work. It is really about surprising people and bringing something new.
Slide 4 / 4
PB: If you could meet anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Ooh, I think Diana Vreeland! She was such a big influence in the fashion industry and everything I have read about her, she seems to have this eccentric personality and doesn't shy away from giving her opinion. She is just such a legend, I would love to know her.
PB: What would you be if you were not a fashion designer?
A plastic surgeon. I would want to do cosmetic surgery. I always wanted to be a fashion designer since I was two-years-old. I used to draw these ladies with matching shoes, belts, bags, even umbrellas. I always knew I wanted to do something in the beauty and vanity industry. At some point I got it into my head that I wanted to be a surgeon because I liked all these yucky, bloody things. So I thought 'Great, I'll do plastic surgery because it is creating art on somebody's face
PB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right here, New York City. All the different cultures are in one city. It is a melting pot and I feel at home here because there are so many other cultures and you never get bored. I thought that this was where I was meant to be; it fits my background. You have a little this little that, you find everything here. If you want to eat something fantastic you go to that area. People think the pace of the city is worse than it actually is. In the end of the day it all looks super busy, but really, it is just a lot of communities on this big island.
PB: What is your favorite indulgence?
Anything? Spas!! My favorite spa in NYC is the Mandarin Oriental
, they have the most amazing treatments.
PB: How is the perfect night out spent?
At home with my husband, little girl (a year old), and dog!
PB: So are you looking to make diaper bags?
No! Everyone asks me that. My mother was a very chic woman and kept all of my clothes and diapers in an alligator bag, so you know, it is kind of in my blood to have no diaper bag.
PB: What kind of dog do you have?
He is a mutt. We picked him up in Greece on our honeymoon in Santorini, he just kind of came to our side and followed us everywhere. He was a little stray dog, about three months old.
I don't drink coffee. I drink Espresso sometimes after lunch. You were going to ask me if I like a Venti Latte Chai whatever Skim Milk vanilla swirl?!! What language is that anyway... Venti...?
Vlad: That's Starbuck-sian! So then what is your favorite drink, if you have one?
Gin and tonic.
PB: Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Bali. Once you have been there you just have to go back. I don't know what it is, but there is some sort of a vibe, just something there that is out of this world that draws you back there. It is really magical there.
Many thanks to Devi for taking the time to talk to us. Hope all of our readers enjoyed the Devi Kroell Fall '08 preview. We are looking forward to covering Devi's fine exotics in the future!
Click here for the official Devi Kroell site.