Glynis Traill-Nash, THE AUSTRALIAN
If Amanda Kendell needed any more confirmation that her bag designs were on to a winning formula, it came on a recent trip from Australia back to her working base of Italy.
“The hostess liked my bag so much she upgraded me to business class,” Kendell tells Life. “I’m not even joking. She was like, ‘This is the most amazing bag.’ ”
The bag in question was a prototype from her new range of suitcase-style carry-ons, an addition to the range of handbags that are now in their third season.
“I’m the most excited about the luggage,” Kendell says. “I don’t mean to brag, but these are the best pieces I’ve ever done.” They feature details such as a trolley handle you can zip away, in combinations such as suede and calfskin.
Kendell was clear at the outset what she wanted her range to be and where it should be positioned in the market.
She wanted to create seasonal, fashion-forward bags with a luxury aesthetic, but without the luxury price tag.
“To create a product for people who want to have fun with it — that was essentially missing from handbags,” she says.
“With bags it’s all about these big investment things that you carry around all the time and you’re not able to change up or change them with your outfit. I wanted to create something more affordable that asserted more of an aesthetic.”
Kendell cites Instagram and social media as portals for the promotion of a lifestyle that is unattainable to her band of late 20-somethings, which she sees as the starting point of her market.
“You don’t want to be that 70-year-old man driving a Ferrari, you want to do it while you’re young,” she says. “So I’m making nice stuff that can feel luxe (for customers) that are young enough and cool enough to enjoy it.”
Having left Sydney to study design in Rome, Kendell then cut her industry teeth with shoe brand Sigerson Morrison in New York, followed by stints in London with ultra-cool show labels Nicholas Kirkwood and Sophia Webster.
These two experiences in particular helped Kendell understand the machinations of a small start-up business.
“The best thing about working for smaller companies is they’re a lot more hands-on. You find yourself going to all the factories, doing fittings — I had a rounded education on how everything works. After doing that twice, starting from the ground floor, I thought I may as well do it for myself. Having worked there for a few years I knew some of the suppliers and what kind of products I wanted to make.”
Those products have included her popular fringed clutches, fringed backpacks, 1970s-style messenger bags and barrel bags, all created from the best leathers, suedes and calf skins sourced in Italy and The Netherlands, and made with Italian hardware.
Despite her assertion that Rome is a “really haphazard place”, Kendell says the present state of the manufacturing industry in Italy has proved beneficial for a small start-up; with so much manufacturing going offshore to China, some factories will take a punt on several newcomers in the hope that a few will take off.
“We work with a lot of amazing artisans. Everyone takes such pride in their work. It’s challenging, there are a lot of arguments, it’s kind of like having an old Italian boyfriend. But it’s great.”
Kendell hopes to expand her offering to become a full lifestyle brand, with a strong emphasis on travel.
“We’re going to start doing wallets and document wallets, creating a whole bunch of things that go together, clutches you can use as passport folders, and you can pack them all inside each other and take them all with you when you go.”