Designer, tastemaker and human rights activist Kristine Gottilla has been creating stylish and inventive handbags for almost 10 years. What began as a hobby, has progressed into a popular brand sold in New York, LA and boutiques around the country and her new endeavors increasingly support women in low income countries where there are lacking opportunities. Her handbag and travel line Spencer Devine is being debuted to Women’s Mafia members, stylists, press and bloggers on Wednesday August 8th at POP 242 Grand in Williamsburg with a big party featuring a flash sale, prizes and gifts for the press.
Enjoy a new Q&A with Kristine about Spencer Devine and her unique business model and design aesthetic below. Will you join us on the 8th?
RSVP to Marcy Clark at email@example.com
Women’s Mafia: How did you get started in design?
Kristine Gottilla: I’ve been dabbling in handbag design since high school, but became serious about pursuing it as a career in 2006 when I finished studying costume design in Rome. The first leather bag I ever designed, was something I made for myself to use for a trip back to Rome. Upon my return to NY, the ideas started flowing and I spent the next two years educating myself on the construction of handbags and making one of a kind pieces.
WM: What does style mean to you?
KG: Self-expression and experimentation. How we present ourselves through our choices in attire says a lot about our demeanor. From color palette to levels of extravagance through detail can portray an interesting insight about our mood, ambitions, and how we personally reflect to ourselves.
WM: I understand that Spencer Devine is very involved in social causes. Can you tell us more about that?
KG: Since the company’s conception, our goal has been to create livelihood opportunities to people in need. Recently I worked with ahuman-trafficking organization in India. This experience taught me about the perils of unsafe migration, which is the leading cause for individuals to be exploited. While in the North East states of Assam, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, I designed textiles with weavers as part of a livelihood initiative that will launch later this year in Europe, India, and the US. I documented this period of developement at http://spencer-devine.tumblr.com/ .
In addition, a portion of all sales goes towards a variety of unique causes affiliated with the groups I worked with in India. Having seen the initiatives and worked closely with those involved in bringing them forward, I am eager to revisit with funds to help advance these programs.
WM: Where do you get your design inspirations?
KG: My background is in fine art and I find most of my inspiration to come from architecture, sculpture, and travel. I rarely peruse fashion magazines, although I know I should expose myself more to that realm. More directly, I find my work to be inspired by juxtapositions and stark contrasts in textures, shapes, and opposites. Azulejos facades in Portugal and the ancient coinciding with the modern in Rome are a couple examples of what I think my aesthetic reflects through material choices and structure.
WM: I understand that your work is all made locally in Brooklyn, does that affect your quality and can you tell me about why you made that choice?
KG: Keeping production in Brooklyn between two workspaces has allowed me to maintain a watchful eye on all stages of the process. From sourcing of materials to working closely with the women constructing each piece by hand, I am able to be fully involved all along the way.
WM: Where do you see Spencer Devine in 5 years? Do you anticipate starting other companies, collaborations or endeavors?
KG: I see Spencer Devine growing into a fuller bodied version of what it is now while broadening our infrastructure as our social contribution goals continue to grow. From 2008-2012 I was designing under the brand Kristine Gottilla. Moving forward, we have gathered the most successful designs from that brand into Spencer Devine Femme. All of these designs have spawned into more refined versions of custom orders that I worked on with clientele through Front 242 in Williamsburg. Alongside SD Femme is our Travel & Leisure collection which was born out of the growing demand for uniquely beautiful cases and travel accessories.
In the next year as we continue to see growth, we plan to pursue a livelihood initiative here in New York aimed towards providing work for low-income, homeless, and/ or jobless women. Having returned from India with new knowledge, it makes sense to develop a similar model here as business grows and requires more hands on board.
WM: What materials and colors do you like to use for your bags?
KG: We have always used the highest quality Italian and German leathers, however now we are launching a new line that uses waxed linen, Indian cotton ikat, and leather (the leather we are using for the straps are made from portions of the hide that would otherwise be considered scrap). This is an eco-conscious version of the already existing designs. Not only does the replacement of waxed linen for leather make the products more eco-friendly, it also cuts the cost fairly drastically while still maintaining an expensive feel, and is just as water resilient and protective as leather. As part of our profit from each sale goes towards causes in North East India, we feel it’s just logical to make the products available to a broader market of consumers.