Designer Interviews

The Interview: Thaddeus Du Bois's Handbag Designs Are Full Metal Fashion

Family, faith and fortitude have led Artist, Thaddeus Du Bois on a unique journey that's proved almost as intricate as his über cool couture creations. Du Bois creates bold, eye-catching, statement fashion handbags that are unlike anything you've ever seen before --these bags give one-of-a-kind an entirely new meaning.

Du Bois who started out with a swimming scholarship to the University of Alaska after graduating high school in 1991, with the intent to study Chemical Engineering, opted for a more creative career path of Artist. Before graduating college in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts, the Indiana native was able to travel all over the world to places such as Hawaii and even the Bering Sea. During those years, he found himself doing various jobs. A desire to serve our country led Du Bois to the Navy before an injury sidelined his ambition to become a SEAL which led to a re-assignment aboard a Submarine Tender. Upon leaving the Navy, life's path led to Du Bois working at a pizza joint in Kona, Hawaii (not a bad gig) to then working aboard a dive boat in the Cook Inlet. However,  it was a position at Nordstrom that made him take notice how much women liked handbags. Ultimately, Du Bois was led back to art and a passion struck for creating and designing sculptural handbags. In his spare time he began developing his craft with design and because the bills need to be paid he began to work as a Pharmaceutical Rep, among other jobs here and there. During this time he was able to show his work at a multitude of venues including  the SeaFair Mega Yacht in Sarasota, Florida.

A re-dedication to living for Jesus in 2011 has blessed the designer's life richly and contributes heavily to the influence in his artistry. Today, Du Bois is designing full-time and recently moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island with his beautiful wife, Kira and their daughter Genevieve, who was born just this past May. This week he will show his collection during Boston Fashion Week. I recently had the honor of speaking with Thaddeus about everything from his favorite design elements to what it was like designing his first handbag.

FWU: How did you know designing handbags was your passion?

Thaddeus Du Bois: I saw sparks when the idea was birthed. A woman named Christine said, “Why don’t you make handbags”. I said,“That’s dumb, those are for girls”. She said, “Look at them as sculptures and it’s really all about the hardware”. At that point I saw handbags in a whole new light and my passion was born.

FWU: Describe the current collection/designs you are creating.

Du Bois: Currently I’m making things that are a little more “mainstream” than my past designs. I’m working on designs that can be produced rather than made 100% Couture so that more people can own and enjoy my work. I still create the one of a kind Couture bags like my latest one, Pastor Travis’ Bible Case which is all hand dyed, hand sewn and hand forged hardware. I plan on keeping everything made in the United States of America even when my handbags are manufactured other than by my own hands.

FWU: Where do you draw inspiration for a piece or a collection and what is your creative process?

Du Bois: This varies widely, but ultimately all my inspiration comes from God. Basically I’m given or set parameters for the design as a base and it grows from there. For example, a client says I have this much money available, I like this color or this leather, I’d like such and such size carried like this and a pocket here and here. From there I like to look at the client’s personality, their lifestyle and design a bag that will compliment them. For bags I design for myself just because I want to I only set the parameters of how much money can I spend on it and how long do I want to spend making it. These pieces lean more heavily towards the art side and always tell a story.

FWU: Are there any Fashion or Accessories Designers style that you admire?

Du Bois: This might sound strange, but there aren’t any. There are aspects of some bags I like and some hardware that I think is pretty cool but ultimately they are all lacking and boring. I don’t want to sound arrogant and elitist but that is why I’m making handbags, because there just aren’t enough cool bags out there. There are handbags I’ve seen and I do love them and they are great designs but if I were to do it, I’d just do it a little differently.

FWU: Describe the first item {handbag or otherwise} you designed.

Du Bois: Ha ha ha, oh boy. I said, “I’ll make a handbag, this is easy”.  I had regular little sewing needles and maybe a two - four ounce suede leather, quilting thread and a thimble. I worked so hard to try to sew that leather, it was all by hand. Then I tried to incorporate the hardware I wanted. I forged out the hardware and tried sewing it to the bag, piercing the bag, gluing it and even welding the metal to the handbag. Picture this, I have metal on both sides of the leather, wet rags soaking the leather and I’m welding the steel to the bag, sparks all over, water dripping. I had no structure to the thing so I tried sewing in some copper wire. Oh wow, it was such a mess! I still have that bag, it makes me laugh to see it.

FWU: What are your favorite elements you like to use in your designs and why?

Du Bois: Metal, hands down I love metal!  Almost any combination of metal and leather I like, especially when the bag makes noise, like the clinking of metal or squeak of leather. Buckles and straps are obviously very cool. Another of my favorites is being versatile. Maybe the bag has a secret pocket, or adjusts or has some other function. I love multifaceted functionality.

FWU: So you are headed to Boston Fashion Week this week. Is this your first fashion week and what are you most looking forward to?

Du Bois: Yes, this is my first fashion week. I’ve shown my handbags in art galleries, and the Couture handbags like “Narcosis” just last year aboard the SeaFair Mega Yacht venue in Sarasota, Florida, but this is the first time they will be on models and going down a runway. I’m very excited!  I’m looking forward to putting on my tuxedo and getting the chance to share that first look on the runway with my wife, daughter, sister and maybe even my parents. I know they will be proud of me, I’ll probably cry.  Obviously looking forward to the orders we will write from the show also.

FWU: Which celebrity would you most like to see carry your handbags/designs on the red carpet. Which TV Show or TV character's could you see your handbags being featured?

Du Bois: The red carpet is exactly where I designed “The Emmy Clutch” (shown below) to be carried. This bag was designed with flash and glitter in mind, so I would love to see anyone walking the red carpet carry this bag.  As far as any other celebrities, I don’t know, Madonna? I’ve always liked her work but to have a celebrity really honestly like my designs and choose to carry one of my bags would be an honor. TV show, well, I don’t have a TV so I know I’m really not versed enough to even give a good answer to that question.

 

FWU: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

Du Bois: I plan on having my own stand alone Thaddeus retail stores some day so keep your eyes open.  I’ll design not only handbags for my store but nearly everything that could be called a home or body accessory. Furniture, plates, flatware, paintings, sculpture, shoes, handbags, sunglasses etc.  I’m excited to see it all come together.

You can purchase items or set up a consultation for your own custom couture bag designed by Thaddeus Du Bois by contacting him here. Be sure to check out his website and follow him on twitter.

~Christy Pastore @christypastore

Image Source: Thaddeus Du Bois

Kings of Cole Lands an Exclusive with goop by Gwyneth Paltrow

Here at Fashion Wrap Up we are huge fans of the stylish clothing brand, Kings of Cole. It's not just the comfortable fabrics, the easy cuts that look good on all women or the flexibility the pieces add to our wardrobe; we also adore the founder and designer, Elana Brynes. Brynes is approachable, down to earth, and (much like myself) terrified of sharks, so yes, we love her. We recently received notice in the editorial offices that Kings of Cole partnered with goop by Gwyneth Paltrow on an exclusive design, being sold through goop.com. We knew we had to touch base with Elana again!

Not surprisingly, Elana told us when goop reached out to do a collaborative capsule collection, it was the most exciting moment of growth for Kings of Cole so far. “To align my brand with such a positive lifestyle brand like goop is such an honor," Brynes told us. With all the growth that has come so quickly, Brynes is also one to acknowledge that growth does not come without growing pains and change.

You might recall the story behind Kings of Cole, from our previous interview with Elana in 2011 about how she was shopping for the perfect boyfriend hoodie and found a void in the market. Coming from an entrepreneurial background that started by selling bracelets in middle school to anyone she came in contact with, Brynes is a self proclaimed “do it myself” type and realized it was time to make a career out of it. We wanted to know what she would tell others who are too scared to pursue such an opening.  Brynes quickly stated, “My best advice would be just jump. I am more scared of living with ‘what if,’ than I am of living with ‘I tried my hardest but it didn’t work out.”

Brynes also highlighted the importance of doing research and not going in to a venture blind. You have to be able to build your brand and convince others that a void needs to be filled.

Elana truly loves her brand and her passion is obvious through her statement of her humble beginnings, “In the beginning people believed the picture I was painting, I was an extension of my brand. I believed my idea into real life.” 

We understand the power of fashion, and Kings of Cole also sees fashion as being a strong force through the opportunity to send positive messages. Admirably, Kings of Cole speaks out against bullying with a sweatshirt that says “BYE HATER,” appealing to the very demographic struggling with bullying. As Elana believes, “You can create walking advertisements for great causes. For me, anti-bullying is a very important cause and, I always try to spread the word that bullying of any kind is not okay… once you take the power away from a bully, he or she has nothing on you.”

With her anti-bullying stance, Elana makes sure Kings of Cole works to embrace fashion for all body types. Knowing no two bodies are the same, the line works hard to come up with key design elements that flatter large amounts of people. Brynes finds this is important because everyone should be able to be fashionable and comfortable.  “It isn’t about being tall, short, skinny or overweight. It is about comfort and fashion.” 

The beauty of Kings of Cole is in the message, the clothing, and the challenge to continue and find voids that need to be filled. Brynes’ largest inspiration is drawn from necessity and the want to create what is lacking in the market place. Because of this, no two days in the Kings of Cole studio look the same. Looking forward, Elana let us know that it is far from being over and as long as you love what you, each day will be about fulfilling your next big dream.

We highly recommend you follow Kings of Cole’s footsteps.  Don’t be afraid to dream, push yourself when you believe in your idea, and throw on that classic Full-Zip Hooded Sweatshirt with the longer tailored cut along with Tracey Anderson’s Method DVD, and as Elana says, “Just rock out!”

To buy one of these exclusive and adorable, denim colored Kings of Cole suits, visit goop.com today!

~Jessica Abouelela @GirlVsCity

Image Source: Kings of Cole

Say Buongiorno (hello) to dalla nonna

Former college roommates Rebecca Richards and Jessica Bohrer are the design duo behind dalla nonna, which means "from the grandmother" in Italian. Richards and Bohrer were inspired by vintage pieces once belonging to their mother's and grandmothers and fell in love with the idea of making something old new again.

dalla nonna's chic and modern jewelry designs have been flashed around by some pretty famous faces including Charlize Theron, Emily VanCamp, Zoe Saldana, Emma Stone and Pretty Little Liars star, Ashley Benson. Their sensational and personal keepsake pieces have even made it to the small screen appearing on Chelsea Lately and Castle.

Recently we had a chance to speak to Rebecca and Jessica, and the pair dished on everything from the importance of giving back to the community, their latest pieces and their plans for New York Fashion Week.

Fashion Wrap Up: Tell us a little bit about the current collection you are creating?

dalla nonna: We actually just introduced our little letters on delicate chain bracelets. We’ve had a great response to our little letters (with celebrity fans including Charlize Theron & Zooey Deschanel), which are in our signature font, and we think customers will love seeing words & phrases like “xo”, “bff”, “love” and “mom” peeking from their sweater sleeves. For fall & winter, we are also focused on incorporating the darker sapphire colors – red, blue, purple & of course black!  While our collections are really wearable year round, we love the pop of the darker tones, and since jewel tones are big for fall, we want to make sure our customers have a new selection of colors to choose from this season. We’re especially loving our black sapphire portafortuna (“good luck charms”) earrings and rings. These pieces are super wearable and make any outfit feel extra special.

FWU: How did you know that jewelry was your passion?

dalla nonna: Who doesn’t feel passionately about jewelry?! Actually, we both are very close to our grandmothers and have very fond memories of playing in their jewelry boxes when we were little (and big!). We adore these women and the special memories we associate with wearing their jewels. So it’s only natural that this passion for family would inspire us to create dalla nonna. We fell in love with the idea of taking a family treasure with a story—a trinket celebrating a special day—and making it new by adding a modern twist.

FWU: Describe the first piece of jewelry you purchased?

dalla nonna:  With a love for jewelry, it’s hard to remember the first piece of jewelry ever purchased. There was the cat ring-bracelet-necklace set that Becca saved her allowance, birthday and holiday money to buy at age 7; the cat was enameled the brightest orange you can imagine. And Jess begged her parents for anything with her birthstone – amethyst, including a heart-shaped amethyst ring in yellow gold – to accompany her arm-full of friendship and beaded bracelets. Although we still have these pieces, which make us smile, we are now saving for timeless pieces that we can pass on to our daughters and granddaughters.

FWU: Where do you draw inspiration for a piece or collection?

dalla nonna: We draw inspiration from everywhere and everything – family, friends, nature, street life, art, runway, etc. Once inspiration strikes, we make sure that we blend new ideas and collections into our existing aesthetic. dalla nonna jewelry is meant to be simple enough to wear every day, but also unique enough to feel special. Personal details give each piece a life and story of its own—from the date you selected for your calendar necklace to the letters you chose for your little letter bracelet. As the line continues to grow, it’s important that all of the new pieces stay true to our chic, custom, vintage-inspired aesthetic.

FWU: Tell us a little bit about this “Calendar Necklace” that is generating so much buzz.

dalla nonna: dalla nonna’s signature piece, the calendar necklace® exemplifies dalla nonna’s blend of tradition and trend.  Derived from an old tie pin of Jess’ Grandpa Howard, each piece is executed in 14k rose or yellow gold, or sterling silver, and accented with a sapphire in a color chosen by the wearer to commemorate a date of her choosing - birthday, birth of a baby, graduation, engagement, anniversary, wedding - the list is endless! With its sleek and modern design, the calendar necklace® is a subtle statement piece that allows the wearer to hold a date that is close to her heart even closer still.

FWU: What are your favorite gemstones?

dalla nonna: Sapphires, of course! We love sapphires because they are one of the only precious stones that come in a rainbow of colors (we use red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple, white & black). We love both the wide range of beautiful colors and the quality.

FWU: Describe what it was like seeing your creations on the red carpet for the first time.

dalla nonna: There is nothing quite like seeing someone wearing something you’ve created, and when that someone is a celebrity it’s exhilarating! Whether it’s a woman on the street or an actress heading into a movie premiere, it’s incredibly gratifying knowing that you’re passion, sweat and tears have paid off. We are touched and honored every time we see someone wearing our pieces…and of course, we phone one another immediately to share our excitement.

FWU: What are your plans for Fashion’s Night Out?

dalla nonna: To survive! Fashion’s Night Out is a super exciting time for the industry & it’s great to see everyone out and on the move soaking in the new trends & fun entertainment. We spent last year taking in the festivities in the Meatpacking District, so this year you’ll probably find us in Soho to mix things up!

FWU: Will you be attending any shows or events during fashion week?

dalla nonna: We love being a part of the NYC fashion world – whether it’s during Fashion Week or any other week of the year – and that’s why we’re based here and why we do most of our manufacturing here as well. It’s hard to match the creativity, diversity and energy NYC has to offer! We’ll be making the rounds to a few shows & events during Fashion Week, and we’ll also be attending Lucky FABB, which we’re super excited about since there are so many wonderful things happening as we grow our social media presence (hard to believe it, but we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram & Polyvore – oh my!).

FWU: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

dalla nonna: We believe in supporting local artisans, all of our pieces are handmade in the USA. Additionally, dalla nonna believes in giving back. In support of promoting breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts, dalla nonna donates 10% of the purchase price of pink bracelets (from any collection, in any metal strung on pink (faux) suede) to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®. dalla nonna also donates 20% of the purchase price of our sterling silver lucky star bracelets strung on turquoise (faux) suede to SOS Children's Villages to support their relief efforts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Customers can feel good knowing that they’re supporting local businesses as well as worthy causes.

~Christy Pastore @christypastore

Image Source: dalla nonna Facebook

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