As a follow-up to this week’s Crazy for Christopher Kon… Handbags write-up, I thought it only fitting that I also blog about the brains behind the biz: Chris Kon. A dedicated follower of fashion since the tender age of 7 (I repeat, 7!), Chris clearly has always had a “handle” on his career path.
Praised for his winning purse-o-nality and business savvy, Chris has been churning out wearable works of art for women of all ages for nearly a decade. Spotted on the shoulders of fashionistas from Montreal to Manhattan, Chris’s coveted leather carryalls can be found hanging around leading retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, Macy’s and Nordstrom. Fashion Junkie chats-it-up with this cool Canadian about his obsessions from surfing (who knew?) to satchels. Check out more, after the jump.
FJ: What prompted you to become a handbag designer?
CK: I have always been creative. I started designing around the age of seven and I started formal teachings in Painting at the age of 12. Handbags were the family business and I knew it well, so it was natural for me to evolve my art into the business.
FJ: Describe a day in the life of a handbag designer.
CK: Magazines and coffee to start. From there, styling, designing and working with customers to better understand what they need.
FJ: If you weren’t a handbag designer, you’d be a… ?
CK: Jewelry Designer, musician of pro surfer.
FJ: Who is the typical Christopher Kon woman? For example, is she a student, a full-time Mom, a career-obsessed fashionista or a jet-setting retiree?
CK: I think a Christopher Kon customer is less about lifestyle and more about the values that our customers have. Someone who doesn’t need a label to let them know they have made it. Someone who is confident and knows what they want. Our bags don’t take away from a woman, they add to her.
FJ: There are so many back-busting (a.k.a. over-sized) bags on the market. Can you offer Fashion Junkie readers tips on choosing (and using!) a silhouette that flatters their figure?
CK: with the exception of a few bag lines that are known to be “heavy” to start with, the biggest problem with big bags is the stuff women put in them!!! More room = more stuff!!!!! Women live with their bags… all the things they carry are important to them, so our solution is to make the lightest leather bags we can. The thing is, that the bigger the bag, the more dramatic it is. The leather falls better. I love the way flat hobo’s look on women, they fall really well, and they suit most body types. Most of all, they are easy!
FJ: Now that the “It” bag status has finally subsided (thank G-d!), a plethora of contemporary handbag lines have suddenly flooded the market. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition?
CK: By keeping a focus on what we have always done: keep things simple, yet edgy with our silhouettes and timeless design.
FJ: Your Fall/Winter ‘08 collection is absolutely stunning! I’m especially obsessed with your “Amy” shoulder bag in plum (style #0155). Who or what inspired this particular collection?
CK: manipulation, moulding, patching.
FJ: Myself (and hundreds of hardcore Fashion Junkie handbag fanatics) are dying to know how much labor goes into each Christopher Kon bag design? Can you please explain the production process from start to finish?
CK: I always start at the bottom…with a pencil and paper. All designs are done old-school here at Chris Kon. No computer aided design programs…it’s the only way to really FEEL it! From there, I work on the pattern to make sure proportions and details look right…then were off looking at leathers!! Once we find the leather (by the way, the inspiration can start with the leather also) we start the sampling process. The average time for a bag to be produced is 3 hours.
FJ: How has the state of the current economy affected your handbag collection?
CK: we are focusing on service, quality and price. We try to stay creative in all facets of the business, not only in design.
FJ: What prompted you to launch your new entry price-point brand, Co-Lab? How will this line differ from your original handbag collection?
CK: due to popular demand. We can reach a lot more people at those price points and felt that it was the right thing to do. The reaction has been great and our history in manufacturing has helped us greatly as we know what to look for when it comes to possible problems in production and materials.
FJ: I love the name of your new Parachute JUMPER collection. When will this line be launching and what exactly is it?
CK: It won’t be launched – we will throw them off a plane across all of north America! It’s called jumper, because we are using high quality parachute material for this line and trimming it with Veg leather. It’s an answer to the big problem women are having with heavy bags… I also felt it was time to bring Nylon back baby… it’s been too long!
FJ: What are the hottest handbag trends and fabric innovations in the market? How will these be incorporated into the Christopher Kon Spring ‘09 lineup?
CK: again, it will be about the Nylon… I’m not big on canvas, although we do offer it in Co-Lab. Nylon and Leather is where my focus is for spring/ summer… super light, super bright!
FJ: Who’s sense of style do you most admire and why?
CK: I love Karl Lagerfeld. It’s crazy rock. I don’t know, on him it works! Anyone who just doesn’t care too much about it… it’s all too serious sometimes..
FJ: Where are your favorite places to shop in Montreal and New York?
CK: hmm…tough question. I don’t really shop in Montreal, but if I had to pick: Simon’s for basics and American Apparel. When I’m in New York, my favorites are Laundry, Atrium and so many others.
FJ: What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to break into the fashion (design) business?
CK: DON’T DO IT NOW! It’s a tough time to start now as most retailers are not bringing in new vendors. My advice is: keep you head down and work hard. Always stay inspired and don’t worry about anyone else’s business – worry about your own. Hard work will get you to point B!
FJ: What’s next for Christopher Kon?
CK: VACATION! I’m leaving in December with my girl and I’m so excited to get a little time off. After that, it’s about super luxe snakeskin for Christopher Kon in Fall ‘09! I can’t wait!