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 handbag photos are credited to my beloved manufacturer in Hong Kong. My contact over there is like my angel right now; she’s been awesome. However sketches and ensuing silliness are my actus reus alone.
The WORKAHOLIC shoulder tote and accompanying wristlet are designed to be a staple work bag. The tote fits a 13.5 inch laptop and standard size file folders, which I have lots of and constantly need to lug around. The tote also fits a textbook, maybe two, so will be functional for the dressier-type university students. Me, I carried around a worn-out backpack in college, but I know girls who think they’re allergic to such things. =)
I wanted the bags to include a smaller wristlet or clutch for mid-day coffee runs or after work dinner plans. One time I saw a gorgeously dressed young woman at a bakery wearing red and carrying a red handbag. From the red handbag she took out a red wallet that you could tell didn’t come with the handbag, but somehow she had the savvy for matching the reds perfectly. That inspired me to make handbag sets for the rest of us who aren’t so savvy. Me personally, unless I buy a set like the Workaholic, my wallet will never match my bag.
And here for reference is the original sketch of the model and bags, with cheesy graphics added courtesy of Jasc Paint Shop Pro:
I’ve snipped from the production briefs my tech drawings of the tote, which aren’t great and I’m embarrassed to post them, but it is what it is. This design blog is about my learning curve and progress, not perfection.
The original sketch is more of a trapezoid and the prototype is more of a rectangle, but I am totally okay with this. As it turns out, it looks better rectangular than trapezoidal… is trapezoidal a real word? Too lazy to look it up.
The above left photo is the original undoctored image. On the right, I used MS Paint to “remove” the white hang tag, hence the slightly crooked stitch line. Rest assured the slightly crooked stitch line is not reality! =D It’s me imperfectly cutting and pasting the pixels to give the illusion of a stitched line.
My 21-year-old baby sister, who has candidly told me that everything I have designed so far is ugly, loves this Workaholic tote. That must mean something generally good. “Can I have it? Can I have it?” she keeps asking me. Again, a good sign. (Also I guess she’s not really a “baby” anymore if she’s 21, but in my mind, she’ll always be 8.)
No photos of the accompanying wristlet yet, but my hopes are high if the tote came out this well.
Moving on, we have the TYCOONESS doctor style satchel (below). The Tycooness comes with 2 identical zip pouches to store cosmetics, business cards, candy and cough drops, and all those loose knick-knacks we women carry around. Zip pouches not shown, however.
The Tycooness won’t fit folders or a laptop, but some women do not need to carry such things to work. This is a great easy-access bag. You unzip it and everything is right there. There are also open pockets on the front and side walls, and a zip pocket on the back for secured easy access to phone, car keys, etc.
I once heard that a major behavioral difference between men and women is that men will walk across the parking lot and arrive at their cars before reaching into a pocket to pull out their car keys, while women before exiting the building, will locate their keys and carry them on hand so that as soon as they get to their cars, they can get right in without having to fumble for it later. So, in light of that information, every Taryn Zhang handbag has a place somewhere easily and quickly accessible to store your car keys.
Continuing with the silliness, here is our 2-D model sporting the Tycooness bag in Central Park (sort of):
The Tycooness sample came out okay. I love it, but then again what mother would call her own child ugly, right?
Maybe it’s the color, which I did select so is 100% my fault. The material, though, cannot be beat. It’s soft and luxuriant and yet vegan. I could paw at the fabric all day with a drunk grin on my face, it’s that fantabulous. I got the Tycooness sample in a grayish taupe color to compare it with the antique rose color, which I applied to another bag currently in production. Crap, then again maybe the material is the problem. Looks like the fabric bunches up in a very unflattering way. For slouchy unstructured bags, this material probably works great. On my stiffer, more structured styles, no way. Great. Back to the swatchbook to pick out a new swatch for the Tycooness.
Color-wise, this sample shows me that I need to select more vibrant colors. It looks very drab in gray.
Now for the UNNAMED weekender, the namesake of which has given me so much trouble. I wanted to call it the Jetsetter, only to realize that every other line of handbags and your mother have a bag called the Jetsetter.
Then I thought about calling it the Daisy B, after Daisy Buchanan, a character from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, only the character Daisy Buchanan wasn’t exactly known for her winning personality, so I thought twice about calling a Taryn Zhang bag “Daisy B.”
I entertained the name Sojourner, but Sojourner reminds me of Sojourner Truth, and naming this weekender after her would not be respectful of her accomplishments and historical impact. This weekender is fun and flirty and cute, which aren’t adjectives that come to mind when you think of Sojourner Truth. (Ain’t I A Woman?: one of the best speeches ever delivered, and many adjectives and thoughts come to mind, none of which are anything close to “fun,” “flirty,” or “cute”…) Maybe one of my future more serious looking bags can be called the Sojourner.
The base of the bag is not actually that dark. I digitally altered the contrast of the photographs so that other details could be more distinct. A side effect of that is the plum material now pretty much looks black. As for the material, it’s shiny, patent, and youthful, very different from the conservative matte material used for the Workaholic and Tycooness.
The handles were supposed to be quite short, so that the bag fit in the crook of your arm and that was about it. These handles on the prototype mean that the bag can be carried over the shoulder, which is a whole lot more practical, but not as aesthetically pleasing to me. I’m suspending judgment for now. I want to examine the bag myself and decide whether to request shortening of the handles, or to keep it as is. Form over function, or function over form?
Overall, I don’t know what to think about this Unnamed weekender. The side chains do not appeal to me at all, even though yep, I’m the one who designed and sketched it like that. They weigh the bag down and compromise the original intended silhouette. I’m ready to tell the manufacturer to rip ‘em off and forget about them. But both of my sisters insist on keeping the chains. Allegedly a lot of heavy metal on handbags is “in” right now. So my proposition is to add hooks to the chains to make them detachable. If you’re me, you can take the chains off yourself. If you’re one of my sisters, you can keep them on and break your back carrying such a heavy tote just to look cool.
(Note: The Unnamed weekender comes with a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap. Not shown.)
I sketch with a ballpoint pen. I know, how un-artist of me. The problem with ballpoint pen doodles is it’s a one shot deal. Normally I don’t mess up too bad because this kind of doodling is brainless to me. I messed up the Unnamed bag model’s face, though, so I had to tape paper over her messed up face and try again. Sketcher’s plastic surgery, if you will.
We’ve still got the Ambitionist, Catalyst, Executive, Artista, and the Precisionist to proof and finalize the color choices for each style. Blacks and reds are a must. Some of the bags will definitely come in antique rose, because I love the statement made by bringing pink into corporate conservative. I’m also thinking some sort of gray-nude-taupe-neutral-esque color, but how do I pull that off without looking drab? Finally, what about the rest of Roy G. Biv? Should I really be ignoring the colors of the rainbow?
These are all issues for another time. For now, I am content that the Workaholic, Tycooness, and the Unnamed bag are coming along well.
There is definitely something to smile about this week.