The call came in from a woman – tall, cascading blonde hair, successful business owner and former model – and she asked me to create a piece that would serve her with style as she manoeuvred through her high-paced life. I knew it had to match her poise and her joie de vivre. It had to exude presence. It would have to make a statement without being loud – just like her. Initially, the challenge smacked me straight in the face like a roll of leather, but then it gave way to waves of inspiration.
That was the day when Jacquie Bender (50), owner of Motife Interiors, chose me to design a handbag that would carry her life from place to place. However, I soon realised that I only needed to look at Jacquie’s own life for the answers to this design.
As an interior designer, Jacquie is always on the move – site visits, fabric houses, client meetings. She likes to have fun and is no stranger to the hottest spots in Joburg. Mother to five gorgeous children, she can find herself next to a sports field or the SA Fashion Week runway where her son walks the ramp. Practicality was paramount – fuss was simply not an option. Style was equally important – it had to look good everywhere, every time. I was then reminded of a quote from iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent: “Isn’t elegance forgetting what one is wearing?”.
Of course, I didn’t exactly want Jacquie to forget about my bag whilst draped over her arm, but I realised that whatever I created couldn’t weigh her down in any way. Elegance was truly the word, that blissful balance between beauty and function.
And so the image began to form in my mind of a classic tote in black leather, the sides and edges rising at just the right angle and just the right height. The well-structured frame would maintain its shape and allow her hand to slip in and find anything with ease. It would also be expandable to accommodate anything from a notebook to a catalogue. Zipper compartments would keep valuables safe – one specially reserved for her fabulous sunglasses. Perfectly measured, sturdy slings would allow her to swoop it up effortlessly. Studded feet would allow her to drop it safely without a second thought on the floor of a renovation project or next to her restaurant chair.
I wanted to create something for Jacquie that seamlessly would weave with her from moment to moment. Something almost feline. And from there the final touch of flair, inspired by a signature element from her own wardrobe: leopard print side inserts.
Another Jackie, who also moved through many wonderful phases during her life, once said that pearls are always appropriate. The smile on my dear Ms Bender’s face when she received Adrian Furstenburg #7, The Jacquie, makes me indulge the idea that she felt the same way about this bag.