FOUNDER'S CORNER

Mistresses on ABC

Wow, what can I say? When I found out that my Ava satchel was going to be featured on an episode of Mistresses on ABC, I couldn't believe it. I mean, TV...my bag was going to be on TV!!! And, it was kinda great that the show was on ABC, seeing as how I spent the first 14 years of my career at Disney Animation...it just felt even more special for me. And then, I found out it was going to be on the Season Finale, Part 2.  AMAZING. When I saw the episode, I was so happy that it got a pretty good amount of airtime. The cherry on top was that Jes Macallan got to see a few of my bags and loved the Emma Tote so much that she asked to keep it.  OF COURSE, I said! :-) I loved the great things she said about it being "the most amazing bucket design" and "the most beautiful leather you have ever felt."  

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My first trunk show

I recently had my very first preview/trunk show in San Francisco and it was such an amazing experience. I had no clue what to expect, but I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. I was surrounded by nothing but love and support. So many friends came out to see my collection and catch up with me on what I had been doing. Everyone was incredibly encouraging and it was simply phenomenal. I managed to rent a great loft space in SOMA and was able to display the collection. With some drinks, appetizers and music, it all came together beautifully. 

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Helena Crossbody

For this bag, I thought about travel and convenience. One of the great things about my time at Twitter was that I was in charge of International HR, so that meant a LOT of travel. I wanted something that would work well as a travel bag but also be unique and stylish. The other thing I was inspired by was the need to pack light but still have plenty of options. Which is why I decided that the Helena could be worn 3 ways. The normal way is the crossbody style. But I also added an additional strap position to make it a bit shorter if necessary, and also can be used to double the long strap and turn it quickly into a shoulder bag. Finally, if you’re caught needing to quickly dress something up or want an edgier look, you can remove the strap and use it as a clutch. This bag was also about fun for me, and I followed through with that feeling by using the stop-sign shape and having the lining be a fun pop-color contrast. I wore this bag on my recent trip to Cuba and it was everything I intended it to be. I wore it all 3 different ways, depending on what activity I was doing and it was perfect. Stylish, sophisticated, functional, versatile and fun. I named this one after my good friend’s 9-year-old daughter. She has the most fun-playful spirit and is just a classic beauty. Her smile is as vibrant as the pop-colors that I’ve lined the bags with.

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Ava Satchel

This bag was all about the handles for me when I started designing. Rolled handles are some of my favorite and I knew they would be a huge challenge to tackle, so of course I wanted to go for it! I originally was thinking of a doctor’s satchel and I knew I wanted something unique when it came to the closure. After playing around with it, I decided on the double-zipper flap as that unique element. I also knew after the Emma that I wanted to include the east-west gussets on this bag. I also wanted this bag to have a vibrant color, so when I saw the gorgeous purple leather, I knew that was it. I named this one after my 10-year-old niece, my little ballerina with a gorgeous smile that lights up a room. The rolled handles remind me of her fifth position ballet arms. For production, I found this amazing Italian Barolo lambskin leather, which was uniquely stretched to create a crinkled texture.

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Jacquelyn Baguette Clutch w/Chain

With this bag, I wanted something roomier than Louise. At first it was just going to be a clutch and that is the way that I carried it around when I first made it. For me, the design had to be simple on this one, but the choice of leather was something where I really wanted it to stand out without being crazy. The look I was going for was classic and elegant, with an edgy and eye-catching “pop.” So, I originally found this leather that reminded me of newspaper print. I loved the look, but more importantly I loved the texture of it. When my mom saw it, she was the one who suggested that I add a chain to it so that it could be used as a small day bag as well. “Give women the option,” she said. Immediately after, one of my good friends said the same thing and I realized that I needed to make it happen. The moment I saw the result of this bag…an elegant, chic, eye-catching versatile bag, I knew I’d name it after my one of my dearest friends. She’s a tall, gorgeous woman with some of the best bone structure I’ve ever seen. Her style is effortless and she just exudes grace. For production, I would find an amazing python-print lambskin that has a scaled textured feeling to the touch and add a beautiful removable oval-link 3-ft chain.

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Emma Tote

Speaking of those trial-and-error experiences, this was a big one. But, it would work out in the best way possible. At this point, I was on a roll. I had made 2 bags by now and I wanted to tackle a large bag. I wanted a tote, but I also wanted something that wouldn’t just remain wide open. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been comfortable carrying just an open tote, so I figured there might be more folks out there like me. I didn’t want a zip closure, but something that would at least pull the bag together when I wanted. So, I dove into making my first “real” bag. This would need to be a true everyday bag and would need to have tons of versatility and durability. So, I worked on my pattern and set out to make it happen. Interesting note is that I hadn’t been taught how to create a full handbag yet. But, I didn’t let that stop me from forging ahead. Funny thing…after I had cut the pattern and got to the point of putting it together and gluing the leather pieces before I was ready to sew, I realized my mistake. I had accidentally glued the front panels in upside down and it created an angular east-west look to the bag. But as they say, sometimes the best things are born from mistakes. And this was no exception. I loved the way it looked, so I decided to keep it. Moreover, I loved the look so much that I decided to use it in the Ava as well. This bag was easy for me to name. It was going to be my reliable, versatile, all-things bag and that is the definition of my maternal grandmother. She raised all of her grandkids and is the center of our family. With this being the center of my collection, it was a no-brainer. It also happens to be the name of my 10-year-old god-daughter, so it would double in nature, just like the design of the bag. The first bag was technically a disaster. When I showed it to my leather instructor, he showed me how fix the construction mistakes on it and that second one became the prototype. For production, I decided to make the gussets convertible so that the bag to take on both it’s original shape and also pull in to give a simple, slender silhouette.  The taupe is the disaster 1st draft...the green is the second, much improved attempt.

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Louise Stingray Clutch

This was the first bag I ever created. A good friend was having an upcoming party and I realized that I had nothing that I wanted to carry with my outfit. So I had this crazy idea…what if I just make something for it? It couldn’t be that hard, right? I mean at this point, I had already started my first leather class and had completed a business card wallet. I mean, I was a pro by now after just 4 weeks of training! Such insanity, but it ended up working out. I had seen something at one point in stingray and I loved the texture. So, I went looking for stingray printed leather. They didn’t have any….but they told me they had actual stingray. I bought one, some lambskin leather for the lining and got to work. Wow, was that hard. I had no idea how difficult it was to work with stingray because of the texture. It was like working with glass beading and I sliced my hands about a million times as I worked with it. And damn if that skin isn’t almost puncture proof. But I kept with it and 2 days later, my first stingray clutch was born. I later realized that when I cut it and was so careful to make sure the edges were as straight as possible, I didn’t bother looking at the “eye” to make sure it was centered!! That was one of my first trial-and-error experiences. Trust me….there would be MANY more to come. Louise was my paternal grandmother’s name and since I had already decided to name the company after her maiden name, I thought it totally fitting that the first bag be named for her as well.   For production, I would make it smaller, angled and add an internal pocket and gussets to create the perfect evening clutch.  Here is the off-center result :-) 

 

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Seeing My First Samples

I made each of my prototypes myself. Taking them to a manufacturer and having them interpret my designs to create a first production sample was something I've never experienced. Tweaking small things based on my notes and creating something that could be mass-produced was a fascinating process to go through. Simple things like how the edges would be finished and whether there would be additional lining in the leather to make it more durable were things I hadn't thought of when I was creating the originals. This was the stuff that experts who knew better brought up and I was forever grateful for their insight and vast experience. My original prototypes are on the left and the manufactured samples are on the right of each photo.  

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Brand Identity

The moment when your brand identity is delivered is incredibly exciting. This entire time, you have been envisioning what everything might look like, what it would say about your company and how it could potentially communicate your brand. You've had so much wrapped up into how it would end up. Through multiple iterations you have given notes, you've worried and you've prayed that it would all come together somehow. And then it hits your inbox and you are beyond satisfied...you are absolutely thrilled!! You finally feel legit as an entrepreneur and it gives you the feeling that your company can finally move forward. 

 

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What's In a Name?

My grandmother was my introduction to fashion growing up. She always had her hair, nails and makeup done to perfection and she loved to express herself through what she wore and how she carried herself. She was always my biggest fan and champion and I wish that she could be here now with me to see it come to life. So, when it was time to find a name, I made a list of a million ideas and started mulling them over. But nothing felt right. Hours later when I was ready to give up, I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I’d like to believe that I meditate regularly to relieve stress, but honestly, I only did it to avoid throwing my computer across the room in frustration. And when I opened them, there was her picture…staring back at me…her 30-year-old self and I was instantly inspired to honor her in some small way. Zaragoza was her maiden name and I decided to add Maison to pay homage to the French fashion houses whose leather artistry has been such an inspiration to me. After all, it was falling in love with the French saddle stitch that got me into this whole thing to begin with. And with that, Maison Zaragoza was born. 

 

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Finding a Direction

Founding this company has been, by far, the most difficult and exciting thing I have ever done. I had no idea when I started this whole thing just how hard it would be...and that is probably a good thing. I knew I had found my passion in making handbags and felt that this same passion would see me through. So far it has...and I just keep thinking...as long as I focus on not getting too overwhelmed by what I don't know yet, I'll be ok. Once I decided that I was really going to do this, I had to think about what I wanted this company to be. Making and selling things wasn't enough. I feel that giving back is such a basic responsibility to anyone who can in any way that they can. So for me, this would be a key component of my business. Now came the difficulty of finding how to give back. It may seem like a simple concept because there are so many possibilities in the world. But, often, having no limits makes things harder. Of course, everything I thought about was a worthy cause and I wanted to do it all. And in these colossal moments of indecision, it’s best to take a step back and ask the experts. I’m lucky enough to have some insanely brilliant board members/advisors and it was with their keen insight and guidance that I was able to define how I wanted to give back.

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