Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Meeting with Monica

Monica Botkier seems to be everywhere these days. Her handbags are slung on the arms of some of the biggest fashionistas, her high-end shoe line launches this spring and she's coming out with an affordable line for Target. We caught up with the successful designer who got in the biz by accident.

RunwaytoRetail.com: What gave you the idea to cross over from photographer to designer?
Monica Botkier:
It was accidental. I was doing fashion photography at the time, and I had always been into photography, taking pictures as a kid and then majored in it in college. I was shooting a lot of great bags and this was during the early part of handbag craze. I remember seeing the YSL Mombasa bag on a shoot and I fell in love with it. I bought one and then later on I purchased one or two other designer handbags, but found that they didn’t always suit my lifestyle and wanted to be able to afford more bags with that same designer style and quality. So, I decided that I would design my own bag. I sketched out the bag, and used leather skins that I had leftover from having photo portfolios made. So I took this to a woman in NYC and she made it for me, but I had to source all the hardware. I took it on shoots and models and editors noticed it and gave me really great feedback. So then I started taking orders for bags from a lot of the girls in the Conde Nast building. And then I showed it to Barney’s and then they picked it up. Things happened really fast, it was in April of 2003 that I made my own bag and then by July and August of that year I was in Barneys.

RTR: You started out as a photographer, how did that help you with your accessories and handbag lines when you went to launch?
MB: I was already in the business and I felt like it was easy enough to do. Truly the response was so overwhelming that I was very encouraged.

RTR: How do you recreate the feel of the Botkier handbags in the shoe line?
MB: With the shoe line as with the bags, the price point is important. The shoes cost between $200 and $500, and boots are at about $700 or so. The average designer shoe is about $600, so ours are a bit less. Having them made in Italy is beautiful, but expensive. Also, the comfort factor of the shoes equals the functional factor of the bags.

RTR: What sets your the shoe line apart from others already in existence?
MB: I don’t think there’s anything in the market like this. I like to consider us an approachable designer. I want to do the same thing that we’ve done with bags in shoes. It’s expensive to buy good designer shoes, but our shoe line has the same feel and quality, it’s cool, sexy, interesting and yet still comfortable, and has that edge, plus it fits into your daily life but you're not paying the premium. We’re a very independent company. It’s all coming from the heart and we’re all very close to it and it shows in the product.

RTR: I know that you’ve been unwilling to compromise on functionality (which we love), how does the shoe line continue this?
MB: We do have padding in the insole, and we make sure that the heels are very sturdy. We work with technicians and a great factory of superb quality in Italy. We also have realistic heel heights and platform proportions that still look sexy but practical. And we have a very streamlined good fit.

RTR: Which is your favorite shoe to wear this spring and which bag will you pair it with?
MB: I love, love, love the Sexpot (pictured below) on my foot; it’s a high heel open toed sandal, it’s almost like a dancing shoe. It’s just a super sexy shoe.
I also love the Shera with the Lita handbag (pictured below). They have similar colors and similar hardware that you can pair together. But in general I’d say take a great basic bag and wild it out with shoes. We have so many great styles, the Stevie bag is fantastic and the Leeta is the one I am carrying right now.
RTR: Which pair is the most avant-guard in your opinion?
MB: Wildest pair is one of the ones I am in love with, as is the Kiss (pictured below) and it’s got a great custom heel with two parts- a faceted metal interior and an exterior leather. The shoe makes the foot super sexy.
RTR: Who are your style icons?
MB: I love Kate Moss; she’s incredible, and she looks amazing all of the time.

RTR: What is your favorite place to go for inspiration?
MB: I was an avid traveler and traveled a lot in South East Asia, Africa and South America. Now I am more inspired by photography because I don’t travel as much since having my daughter. I have a Tom Sacks print that I got at an art auction that I love. It’s nude and abstract.
I also collect antiques and indigenous articles from all over the world that inspire me. I’m really motivated by what I feel like seeing existing in the world at a given moment.

RTR: You’re a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Congratulations! What is that like?
MB: I just got inducted and the first meeting will be in March. What I like about it is being an independent designer, the organization gives me a network of people and a community feeling that makes you feel stronger. I’m very inspired by Diane von Furstenberg on a personal level too.
-Kari Skaflen

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