Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It didn't happen overnight, but she finally set aside some time in 2003 to create a few handbag designs and secure a few workshop contracts. The effort didn't pay much. Even when London's Austique agreed to accept a few early designs, Cawthra planned to practice law for another two years.
As she tells it, it could be frustrating at times and rewarding at others. The only thing that kept her going was knowing it was the right direction. With every new challenge, she worked harder and followed her instincts.
Belen Echandia isn't an ordinary handbag. It takes a world of talent.
According to Cawthra, there are several elements that go into creating a successful London-based handbag and accessories company. One of them is design, but there is something else for Belen Echandia. The luxury brand works a little harder to deliver personal service, including custom features.
Although Belen Echandia can still be found in many luxury stores around world, it is their commitment to customization that gives the brand a modern lift. And for the women who buy them, these custom handbags are often equated to dreams.
After picking the size, style, and design, Belen Echandia invites customers to choose their leather, lining, and hardware. Extras can be added too, including laptop sleeves, two-way sliders, external slip pockets, and detachable zipper compartments. (Every handbag already includes leather key holders, smartphone pockets and a secure zipped pocket.)
Whether the handbags are custom or off the rack, all of them are made in Italy. They are all handcrafted by a family-run Italian atelier. Using techniques that have evolved over generations, these craftsmen cut every piece by hand, stitch the piece together, and then add the lining and hardware.
"I was transfixed. Before I began designing leather goods I had never previously thought about how or where the bags I bought were made," says Cawthra, recalling the first time she saw her designed crafted. "It is truly a fascinating, laborious process when done in the old-fashioned way."
The importance of tradition isn't confined to the craft. Cawthra takes pride in tradition, only purchasing leathers and fabrics from Italy and France. The Belen Echandia brand isn't supported by an advertising campaign and low cost labor. Instead, it is supported by small quantities being hand produced by craftsmen who have perfected techniques passed down for generations. Doing so transforms something as simple as a handbag into an art form.
Two highlights from the ever-changing Belen Echandia collection.
While it might be odd for someone who never owned a handbag to pick a few highlights, there are some stylistic considerations that immediately stand out. The lines look right. The space use is smart.
The Covet Me Mini is a smaller handbag, measuring 7.5 inches in height and 10 inches in width (less than 1 inch in depth) made with fine European leather. The design is made for modern living, with mobile pockets and leather key strap. In addition to an upper-flap compartment (with magnet closure) and zipper pocket on the reverse, the handbag also features an interior zipped pocket. As an alternative compact bag, consider the Madrid Crossbody.
For bigger bag needs, take a look at the large New York Satchel, with its central zipped compartment, mobile pockets, front pocket, and combination clasp/magnet closure. With its larger size (11 x 15 inches width, 6 inch depth), the satchel makes for a more serious handbag with room for tablets or laptops. Likewise, Belen Echandia also carries backpacks that retain the the styling of a handbag.
Belen Echandia Handbags Carry 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Belen Echandia represents everything worthwhile in design and fashion, taking care to create beautiful and functional designs and then carrying those idea through with authentic craftsmanship. The added option of designing a custom handbag only makes its appeal better.
The Covet Me Mini and Madrid Crossbody go for around £400 (about $625 U.S.) and the larger bags like the New York Satchel and Copenhagen Backpack for around £500 (about $800). While this might seem a steep investment for some, these are the kind of bags that can be kicked around for life. To view the full line of limited edition bags or to custom design your own, visit Belen Echandia direct.