Carmen Flanders, head designer of Bijou One luxury handbags, shares her incredible experience dressing legendary musicians and performers including, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart and many more, and how that experience led to the creation of her handbag collection. Plus, Carmen's latest venture that just opened in the Dallas Design District—Bijou Luxury— showcasing covet-worthy luxury goods exclusive from the closets of Hollywood's elite. One look at her beautifully curated collection and you'll happily indulge in something new-to-you.
What was your path to becoming a luxury handbag designer? How did you get started?
Many years ago, too many. I worked in Hollywood with a leather designer. All of the clothes were handmade at the workshop on Sunset Boulevard. We worked with the Rolling Stones (Tour of the Americas), Peter Frampton (Live album), Quincy Jones (Body Heat album) and other projects and personal pieces for Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, members of the Jackson family and many other personalities. I am dating myself with this list. Through this experience, I learned how to choose leathers properly, as well as pattern making, sewing leather by hand, etc.
Did you always know you wanted to focus on accessories?
No, not then. Many years had passed before I took up design again—family and career. I started collecting vintage jewelry, which became a passion over 10 years ago, and then gave me the idea of using the jewelry on handbags. From there, I worked tirelessly on the line entering the bridge price point market for 2 years; selling to approximately 70 stores in the U.S., Japan and Mexico. The bags were made by hand, of course, with my signature design the "Audrey" cuff clutch.
Because of the tremendous competition coming out of China flooding the marketplace I couldn't compete. I then decided to offer only high-end exotics made In Italy. Very challenging! All of your major design houses such as LVMH, Gucci, Loro Piana, etc. have bought out the small artisan factories and tanneries in Italy and France making production there very difficult. I have moved production to the U.S. now. There are a handful of specialty artisans here that still work by hand.
Can you describe your design process for us? What inspires you?
Color inspires me. Exotic skins inspire me. When I combine the skins I think to myself, this is the only time a crocodile, a python, and an ostrich can play nice together!
What do you enjoy the most as a designer?
I enjoy the creative process. I still don't consider myself a designer really. Just someone who likes pretty things.
Do you have a favorite style from your collection? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite style is "La Borsa Marlena," a travel bag. I like the size of the piece. It has presence!
You’ve recently launched Bijou Luxury Consignment in the Dallas Design District...can you tell us about your new venture?
My sister has been in the entertainment industry (behind-the-scenes) styling for celebrity personalities for 25 years now. She works with them on a personal as well as professional level. Closet re-organization and cataloging, television, and other productions. Most celebrities cannot wear pieces twice, or won't. They have extraordinary closets and welcome the venue of "shopping celebrity closets". Some are clients of mine who buy my bags as well. One Chanel in exchange for a custom Bijou One!
What is the most extraordinary item you have accepted for consignment?
A vintage Gianni Versace lasered coat valued at $10,000. It's beautiful.
In your experience, which designers or brands have the highest resale value?
Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags, due to the exclusivity. It is a brand that has stayed true to its heritage. Chanel bags, because it's Chanel!
Read more about Carmen on the Towne & Market blog. Shop Bijou Luxury on Towne & Market—reserve online and pick-up in store!
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