The idea of accessorising with a wooden clutch sounds rather eccentric, but recent trends reveal that the simplicity of the material coupled with dexterity can transform wood into an item of luxury.
While Stella McCartney convinced the Princess of Norway to carry her stylish Accordion wooden clutch, and Devi Kroell and Fiona Kotur’s designer wooden clutches left young girls mesmerised, other designers saw the opportunity and launched their own collections — Ayesha Hussain, of AH Bags, being one of them.
“My in-laws belong to the village of Tahirabad near Chiniot — my mother-in-law gets furniture made from there while my sister-in-law has employed local artisans and is teaching them embroidery,” said Hussain. “And even though I have a Masters degree in Business Management from Middlesex University, I’ve always wanted to design handbags.”
Speaking of what inspired her to delve into the business of wooden clutches, Hussain said: “I saw Devi Kroell’s collection and thought that these could easily be made in Pakistan.” Kroell is a New York-based designer known for re-defining luxury with her wooden accessories. After featuring her collection in TV series “Gossip Girl”, her embellished clutches created a distinctive style and sell for $2,000 each.
Inspired by Kroell’s success, Hussain decided to train local carpenters and artisans so she could launch her own clutch collection. “It took time to get a system properly chalked out,” she explained. “Providing artisans with print-outs of sketches and designs that need to be embodied, creating a simple box polished to perfection, embellishments attached to the outer surface, inner lining added once the samples are sent back to Lahore [from the village].”
“I know you must hear this often, but in this case everything is actually done by hand since wood is such a delicate medium,” she further added.
Hussain has created these neatly-sculpted clutches in various shapes — rectangular, octagonal and shell-shaped and designed them in such as way that they can be worn with both eastern and western wear. Depending on the contrast of an outfit and tone of wood used, the combination can result in a fun evening look.
Although Hussain’s wooden pieces are the boldest designs out of her entire collection, her calligraphy-plated bags remain to be highest in demand. It takes time for fashion trends to come to Pakistan and for the masses to accept and familiarise with them. “Very few fashion-forward people bought my wooden clutches — it shows clearly that they have travelled across the globe and know fashion trends well,” said Hussain. “It will take a lot of time for Lahoris to accept such accessories.”
She believes that although the trend has not penetrated the Pakistani fashion scene yet, it soon will. Her pieces are priced between Rs5,000 to Rs8,000.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.
More in FashionDocumentaries generate buzz at Toronto film festival