Working with the Catalyst (version 1.0, that is)

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.

The Catalyst was intended to be an attache that I could take with me to work, a briefcase-like handbag that fit my casefiles in one half or a laptop computer, and in the other half, a purse compartment for all my daily girly things. The back zip pocket could house my phone, keys, and wallet for easy access. It would be a bold high-powered brief that I could take with me to court. Here is my original sketch for the Catalyst attache:

And here is the actual prototype, version 1.0 (do brace yourself for this):

Sure, the manufacturer got the silhouette right (as in, it’s a quadrilateral, like in the illustration; yes, that’s how low our standards are now), but wrong fabric and wrong red. The material was supposed to be stiff, polished, and glossy, you know, briefcase-like. That material in the prototype is not briefcase-like at all.

As for color,  I wanted a deeper, darker sangria red. This red they used is, well, hate to say it, but it’s China red. Really not what I had in mind…

The Catalyst was also supposed to come with a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap. Note where the hook for the straps are located on the bag (see right photo above). Yeah. Way at the bottom. Think basic physics here. When you attach the shoulder strap, the entire bag flips upside down. And everybody thought we Asians were good at math and science! Bah, I say. I don’t think you need any experience at all in design or the handbag manfuacturing industry to know that hooks at the bottom of the bag might be a bad idea. I even went back to my illustrations to make sure it wasn’t me. Nope, it wasn’t. I had instructed the hooks to be at the top third. The manufacturer must have decided that by “top third” I really meant bottom third.

Again, the hideous interior lining. At least it’s actually padded. The only good thing out of this is the bag can indeed fit my casefiles and my laptop. I appreciate how I can use one half of the bag for work stuff and the other half for my everyday-essential-girly stuff.

Can I take this bag with me to court? Haha. No. I can take it with me to the office when no one is looking. I am currently using this bag 100% for its functionality. If anybody even quasi-important ever walked into my office, the first thing I’d do is kick this bag under my desk and hide it. I know, I’m awful.

Seriously my biggest gripe with how the first round of prototypes came out is that they completely missed the mark on my point of view. These bags are supposed to be for business executives. Alpha women. Women who might otherwise be carrying manly suitcases or else something really plain and boring to conform to their corporate culture. I got instead a batch of very casual handbags.

And this prototype for the Catalyst in particular makes no sense. It plays mind games with you. It’s a brief, but not really. It’s casual, but also not really. It’s like–you know what it’s like?–a power suit made out of denim. That’s exactly what it’s like.

… I spoke too soon. Right after I typed the foregoing, I ran an image search for “denim suit” and it’s apparently quite popular, and very “couture.” Yowsers.

photo credit:

Shows you what I know about fashion. =X

Well. And there you have it. Go out there in a denim power suit and carry the Catalyst version 1.0. It’s going to be all the rage next season, swear.

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