If anything, handbags have become a more important fashion accessory in the new millennium than ever before. I mean for heaven’s sake, even men include them as an integral part of their fashion experience these days!
Nadia Minkoff was founded in 1988 out of a passion for natural materials, colour, craft, travel and all things vintage. This philosophy formed the backbone of her range and it has proven a winning business model, marrying a quintessentially British style with a successful UK manufacturing base.
When I caught up with the lady behind the brand, which boasts a wonderfully distinctive ‘boutique-style’ and possesses a vintage-inspired feel, I was immediately taken by her down-to-earth nature.
I began by asking Nadia if fashion was something she had always been interested in and whether it was something influenced by her parents.
“I started making my own clothes as a youngster. I would say I had a flair for the design more than fashion; I never sought out to be ‘fashionable’ but more original.
“In fact, I had an unusual childhood, my parents both Londoners, immigrated to Israel where I was born. I was brought up speaking English but due to my father’s profession we travelled a fair bit, so I lived in the UK and in South America as well.
“Mum and dad were arefreshing combination of the academic and the creative so I was fortunate to have a good blend of science, art, music and travel, all of which have proved a big influence on my life. I was able to study various languages during my travels, which opened my eyes to the world from a young age.”
Clearly, her exposure to so many different environments and cultures had a profound impact on Nadia as she grew up and by the time she was ready for university she had a clear plan identified for her future.
“Although at school I enjoyed Biology, French and Literacy, once I lived in Italy for a year I just knew I had to do a degree in Fashion and as quickly as possible.
“I studied at the American College in London; they gave me the opportunity to do a 4-year degree course over 3 years so I was able to start immediately as I could study during the summer breaks.”
Nadia credits her love of natural materials to her mother and her home life when growing up.
“My mother refused to acknowledge anything synthetic from clothing to soft furnishing. It is something that has stayed with me ever since. As for colour, I just love colour, whether it is in nature, art, food or fashion, it never ceases to excite and delight me.
“My vintage designs are inspired by London. It’s a treasure trove for all who love vintage, from the stunning buildings to the amazing markets, the variety of shops and ultimately the general quirky style synonymous with so many Londoners.”
For Nadia, her first break came quite quickly, whilst she was completing her final term at university.
“I had a job working as an outworker for Molton Brown on a new range of accessories and I was offered the chance to design a range of accessories for a catwalk show they were holding to promote the newly refurbished store in South Molton Street.”
After that, the rest was pretty much history. She was contacted by Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods within a few days of the show and since then there has been no stopping her.
2008 saw the brand showcasing its first New York show and catwalk alongside its regular showing at London Fashion Week and Tokyo.
“Watching my designs on the catwalk for the first time was surreal but also so exciting. I am my own worst critic and within minutes I was spotting faults that probably no one else would have even seen. But by the time it was all over, I just wanted to get on with the next collection.
Nadia has also been fortunate enough to form some powerful business partnerships with the likes of Virgin Atlantic and the Orient Express, two premium brands that have certainly helped with the growth of her business.
“I have created exclusive pieces for Virgin Atlantic’s Retail Therapy in-flight magazine for the past two years. In-flight retail is very exciting and it was always an ambition of mine to be onboard with Virgin, so I am very happy and they are great to work with.
“The Orient Express carries my silk purses but have their own branding inside. Actually, unbeknown to most I do a lot of private label work for the top UK retailers and have created hundreds of designs for high street stores that sell very well. Private label is a big part of my business these days and I always make sure that each range I make is designed specifically for my customer. I am very proud of the accounts we work with and the growth we have seen despite the economic downturn.”
In Sept 2009, the first of four Nadia Minkoff PR shops opened in select Tokyo Takashimayastores, as well as a new Nadia Minkoff agency for Dubai and the Middle East. Nadia Minkoff is looking to expand further overseas, “we still have a lot of work to do in Europe not to mention the USA and of course in the very attractive duty-free industry globally.
“It goes without saying that we would love to have our own Nadia Minkoff London flagship store but it has to be the right place at the right time. We are looking for a location now – so watch this space!”