‘Ten Best” With Chicago Handbag Designer Brynn Capella!
(Above Photo: Displayed top to bottom, left to right: Edie – Wyoming Yellow, Cher Wristlet – Forever Yours, Lauren Crossbody Fold-Over Bag – Boardwalk, Zee Satchel – Sail Away, Dylan Coin Bag – Ole Blue Eyes, Sophie – Grace Kelly)
I first became introduced to Brynn Capella’s handbags in the lobby of the Belden Stratford Hotel where they were holding one of their many trunk shows. Her Italian leather handbags were on display one evening, and I immediately was drawn to the clean and classic styles of her collection. I was very impressed, and my initial thought was to pass along her information to a friend of mine who writes exclusively about Chicago fashion. However, after speaking with my friend, she indicated to me that she already knew Brynn pretty well, loved her work as a designer and has written about her in the past. So, based on my friend’s great recommendation, this is what led me to reach out to Brynn personally, and I have learned after having spoken with her that she is not only a successful designer, but she is a pretty awesome lady as well.
Here are my ‘Ten Best’ things about handbag designer Brynn Capella:
1) So tell me about who Brynn Capella was before she became a handbag designer, and how did you get started?
BC: Well, I was born and raised in Southern California. I always loved to draw as a child, but I ended up going to school for advertising instead. This led me to a career in the record business. I spent many years working in the music industry, but during any period where there was downsizing or downtime in my day-to-day life, I would make bags. It started for me making handbags as presents for my friends and family. This evolved into me traveling from San Diego to San Francisco having handbag parties for people. From there, it took on a life of its own and it sort of found me.
When I look back at magazine clippings from the past decade, I think about how certain pieces just never go out of style. That inspires me to create timeless designs that will be fashionable in any decade or period of your life. It’s about high quality leather that gets better, softer and more personal with age and will stand the test of time.
My parents were born and raised here. So, when I moved to Chicago, I had to readjust my way of thinking. I had to think more about the seasonal aspects of fashion. Once I changed how I was going approach my designs, I then found a contractor who was able to take my visions and make them a reality.
2) What have been some of the obstacles you have faced in developing your brand, and how did you overcome them?
BC: When I first started out, my father who was a controller (basically a money manager on a high corporate level), wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about my financial prospects of succeeding. Designing your brand just doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. You have to put your nose to the grindstone and remain persistent. Believe me, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, now when I look back.
3) What inspirations do you draw on in your designs, and what aspects of your bags do you think people like the most?
BC: My bags are named after the people who inspire them from my friends, customers, celebrities, various occupations and more…everybody is looking for something different. When I do events, I love talking directly to all of my customers. Their feedback and input helps me develop as a designer. My inspiration also comes from architecture, colors in nature and apparel too.
4) What is most important thing for you to achieve as you continue to grow your business?
BC: I consider myself a boutique handbag collection. I will never mass-produce. As an American designer, I think it’s important that my collections are “Made in America.” I create for the boutique shopper and love to design for her; a bag as classic and individual as she is, without the couture price tag. I don’t have a desire to sell at department stores, since I feel that waters down the uniqueness of your brand. I want to remain in boutiques so that people can still feel special with something special.
5) I noticed that on your web site there were some photos of different celebrities carrying your bags. How did this come about? What kind of reviews have you received from them?
BC: This came about through friends I had from my days in the music industry. A friend of mine works with Katy Perry, and we were at an event together at the House of Blues in Chicago. We were able to get her to carry one of my bags during the event (see photo left). It was a great experience, and I appreciated it.
I also attended a charity event with Ali Fedotowsky, from the Bachelorette, and a friend of mine told me that she would be willing to select one of my bags for it. Obviously, we want to give celebrities as many different options as we can and allow them to select what fits in with their style.
I always tell my team that when we are looking to work with celebrities, I want us to seek out people that represent my personality and my passions as a designer. I worked in the music industry for almost a decade, so I have a stronger affinity to female musicians than typical celebrities. But believe me, if Jennifer Aniston wanted a bag, I would send her one.
6) Talk about the process you take in designing your bags? From early sketches to the final product, what materials are being used, and how are they being constructed?
BC: After I first draw out a few different ideas, I sew a skeleton of the bag and take it to my contractor to make the official sample bag. Since the leather can vary depending upon its stiffness, sometimes a few different variations are made, until it’s perfected. And even after that, some bags will have further small revisions made based on feedback and sales. My designs fluctuate depending upon the seasons. Fall is my biggest, so all styles are made, but for the holidays, we focus on clutches and bring out some of our glitzy and sparkly fabrics and leathers.
7) Who are some of your favorite fashion designers (locally and nationally), and who would you like to be able to work with given the opportunity?
BC: My favorite fashion designers are Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, because I love their simple yet sophisticated designs. My favorite Chicago designers are based in jewelry, from Susan Elizabeth Designs and Juliet Jewelry to Jules. I think all of these women create beautiful timeless pieces that stand out from the mass produced jewelry you see everywhere.
But if given the opportunity, I would love to work with Stella McCartney or Vera Wang. I think these women design for an individual and not for the mass public, meaning they have a niche and know how to design for them.
8) Do you think Chicago is a fashion forward city and being a SoCal girl, what are some of your least and favorite things about living here?
BC: I think Chicago fits somewhere in-between the super stylish people of New York, and the laid-back, ‘designer label darlings’ of LA. Chicagoans just know what they like, and if that happens to be fashion forward, so be it!
Being from SoCal I’ve learned to deal with the weather of Chicago. With that said, I actually love having seasons. SoCal was Spring/Summer all year. Chicago is more of a “city” than either San Diego or LA. And I’ve learned that I am a city girl at heart!
9) What would be the advice you would give to someone out there starting out in the fashion industry and trying to get their brand off the ground?
BC: My advice would be to intern with a designer first. It’s amazing all the little things that go into this process. Also, start with a business plan (for yourself mostly), QuickBooks for finances, go to local shopping events and network, develop a thick skin (there will be a lot more rejection than acceptance in the beginning).
Don’t be afraid to try everything once; you won’t know if it’s right for you and your brand unless you try it, but follow your gut, it’s usually right!
10) What can we look forward to from Brynn Capella in 2012 and any desire to expand into other areas of fashion?
BC: Spring 2012 will be filled with color, which I love being a SoCal girl. I love to incorporate color all year long and try to find colors, both for Spring and Fall that translate into a year round bag. I realize that it’s not for everyone, but those who embrace it get more bang for their buck. I will also be launching the mini version of my popular Lauren Crossbody bag in Fall 2012. Fifty percent of my sales come from this one bag and for all the petite women out there who are begging me for a smaller version…their dreams have come true.
I also want to expand more into “accessories” in general. I would like to create a wallet and bring back my “Nikki” belts. Plus bring back my Auntie B diaper bag line in 2013, and my biggest dream would be shoes in 2015.
Brynn Capella is located in several boutiques locally and throughout the U.S. You can shop for her collection online at her web site, www.brynncapella.com or order by phone at 773.278.1668 between the hours of 1 p.m and 7 p.m CST Mon.-Fri. In-person orders are made by appointment only.
Or, you can find her handbags in the following shops in the Chicagoland area:
- Arlington Heights – Upstairs Boutique – 7 E. Campbell Street – 847.818.8550
- Chicago – Cerato Boutique – 3451 N. Southport Ave. – 773.248.8604
- Chicago – Hazel – 1902 & 1926 W. Montrose – 773.769.2227
- Chicago – Fixture – 2108 West Roscoe Street – 773.244.3100
- Chicago- Florodora – 348 S. Dearborn St. – 312.212.8860
- Chicago – Spare Parts – 2947 N Broadway St. – 773.525.424
Till Next Time!