Only One To Blame Is Me

Please note that the following handbags represent first prototypes and serious blunders. This blog documents our trials and errors and tracks our progress from inexperienced start-up to launching the Taryn Zhang brand. Please bear that in mind as you look through these photos and illustrations.

I sat there stunned at what I saw. I have spoken with designers who warned me this might happen, who recounted to me how this happened to them. My husband James, who has truly been a partner in this endeavor, came over and patted me on the shoulder. “There, there now. You didn’t think this was going to be a walk in the park, did you?”

It is so easy to point the finger and blame anyone but yourself, but the truth here is the only one to blame is me. The samples came out looking exactly like or at least very close to my sketches, except… they don’t look… good! And that’s why it’s nobody’s fault but mine, since I’m the one who did the sketches. A lot of the error– okay, who am I kidding– all of the error can be attributed to my complete lack of experience.

Below are 3 of the initial designs that at this point will very likely be edited out of the final Alpha Collection. These 3 couldn’t be straying further from the brand’s intended point of view, that is, aside from the more obvious condition of ugliness. Unless I can manufacture up a miracle, this post will probably be the last you see of these 3 designs.

Oh, and try to ignore the colors and material choice. I know– how do you ignore a train wreck? But in terms of material, I’m still experimenting. All I know for sure is it has to be the highest quality vegan leather I can find. No PVC (poly-vinyl chloride) and no plasticky, rubbery, nylony textures.

See how there is nothing wrong with the craftsmanship, and the sample of the Kindred Spirit is about as close to the sketch as it will probably ever get; and yet it is so far divorced from my original vision. I wanted the construction to be a bit more shell-like, a bit harder, glossier, not matte, and stand on its own, sturdy. The actual sample looks pillowy.

And what was I thinking with the colors?! It looks like I took a panda and turned it into a bag. I mean…here I am calling it vegan?! (Folks, please note that no pandas were actually harmed in the making of this bag.)

With the Peripatetic, I really wanted to capture the circle shape. We’re just not getting there for some reason. I’m not entirely clear why. Also, I thought I had selected a very light gray-greenish hue, but the actual color of the material is, um…duly unpleasant? It’s like a rotton-broccoli-green. :: mopes ::

Also, the stripes aren’t as I had imagined them either. I imagined a very thick, broad stripe of black, and then a stripe of dark chocolate brown trimming, and a light pink trimming, more like the sketch. Again, I may not have adequately communicated my visions. Heck, it’s pretty clear I didn’t since, above all else, the bag is still not a circle!

As for the above Duchess, no comment. I mean, what can I comment with? It looks like pleated poop. (Pardon how undignified I sound.)

July 2009, First Conception of The Duchess

The main problem (paradoxically enough) is that the samples to the right are more cartoony than the cartoons of the designs to the left.

I will say this: quality of the bags are up to par. From the reinforced stitching to the detailing, it’s all there. And that further confirms the theory that it’s my fault, not anyone else’s.

Designers love to say, “They just don’t get me.” Like it’s other people’s shortcoming for not being telepathic. At least I’m not delusional. I can see what’s going on here. I didn’t put any distance between my design conceptions and my rationality before sending the specs off to the factory. I thought what I had was fantabulous. Now I’m confronted with how utterly un-fantabulous the original design conceptions were. Now I’m hyper-insecure with all my other designs. I’ve sketched out the Beta Collection already, and parts of the Gamma. Are those designs equally un-fantabulous and I’m just too callow to acknowledge it?

Am I embarrassed to be posting these? Oh, definitely. I can’t believe these were my designs. I did these. I have always prided myself for being artsy, for possessing an artistic eye, for having a great sense of aesthetic, and yet I designed these. That is why I am feeling disappointed today. I’m disappointed at myself.

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  • Ben Hwang

    I don't think it's your fault at all. In fact, if you've already had some talks with them, then I don't know why these bags look like the paper prototypes more so than your drawings. The circle wasn't a circle, just like I said before. It's almost like they didn't bother to listen to you, and used the paper products as the pattern.

    I can't speak for the colors, but I think that your details and such are very detailed, and they just kind of ignored it. Well, you win some, and you lose some. I always loved the teachers that other people hated. So I suppose you just have to find the right manufacturer that can interpret your visions.

  • Maeko

    Oh my.

    Oh my.

    It's a disconnect. Your sketches are great! I would not buy the brown one, but the Peripatetic… that would be awesome if it were a circle. And the first doesn't look bad at all! I'd buy it. But definitely not in line with your vision.

    I'm sorry you're going through all these “growing pains”.

  • asiancajunslauren

    Taryn, your sketches are beautiful- and I can't imagine how hard it is to get samples and not be able to be breathing down the neck of the person making them. Please don't beat your artistic self up! This is, as you say, just part of the learning curve, and I can't wait to follow your journey on your blog! Thanks for commenting and visiting ours ;) I can't wait to read more!

  • AppleSidra

    You're way more forgiving than me, because I wouldn't buy any of the above!! Heck, I doubt I'd carry them around if they were given to me for free. Hence my disappointment. It's really, really tough to look at something you've put your toil and sweat into and realize that what you just created, your baby, is.. well, repugnant.

  • AppleSidra

    Hey Lauren! Thanks for stopping by. Oh, it's tough all right. Then what makes it ten times tougher is my lack of a design background. (I'm a corporate attorney by day, and only slowly but surely nurture this passion and dream by night.)

  • Xxxtine

    I always feel that designing, particularly if you're not manufacturing it yourself, is always a collaborative effort. In my case, my graphic shirt designs, when outsourced to my screen printer never come out exactly as I pictured, despite my supplying them with mock-ups and such. But the thing is, I can live with most of it because I've done the mock-up in life-like templates. There is always an interpretive element matched with whatever materials are available.

    Perhaps you should look into Pantone colour matching for your materials in case you haven't considered it before. Like for instance, at my screenprinters, I said “Blood Red” … the 3 guys all had differing views as to what “Blood Red” actually looked like. Some of the colours they determined to be “blood red” were a bit more orange to me. It was only until I pointed out from a Pantone colour book exactly the colour I wanted that I got exactly that colour.

    Keep your head up. I also don't have a background in design, but have had an appreciation for visual arts for years. Even if you're not fully satisfied with it, there is always someone out there that will like it. At least this particular manufacturer looks like they know what they're doing, you just need to tweak some more. You must also give me their contact info, I have a messenger bag that's been floating around in my head for years.

  • AppleSidra

    Hey Xxxtine! Always heartening to hear from you. When's the next time you'll be in the Bay? I checked out the Pantone color book and I wish I had known about this sooner! Thanks for the heads up! Also, good luck with your own endeavors. I checked some of it out and you know I will be a customer!

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