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Mischa Barton

Actress turned handbag designer Mischa Barton tells Laura Jackson about her inspirations and love of vintage shopping.

How did Mischa Barton handbags come about?
I was approached by a manufacturer in Hong Kong who was keen to work with me, and I was attracted to the fact that they would let me design under my own name. The team was very open-minded, and let me be as funky or classic as I wanted with my designs. At the moment the collection is just available in the UK and Republic of Ireland and I like the exclusivity of that. Spring 09 is the second season I have designed for, and I feel people have more confidence in what I do now.

What can we expect from the brand for spring 09?
There are more wallets and purses this season and I’ve been working on improving the clasps. There are more studs and metalwork, which are inspired by catwalk designs. One of my favourite designs is a classic black handbag with an embossed logo. I like understated pieces.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I collaborate with other people when we are choosing fabrics and designs, so it is quite a back and forth process, but my input comes from the vintage and classic bags I own, and translating that into something modern and affordable. In terms of the brand’s flower logo, that was something I came up with when I was doodling. I think it’s quite 1970s, a bit Biba, and it shows the bag is a Mischa Barton bag without me having my name splashed all over it.

Was there anything that surprised you when you began creating the collection?
That it is an immense amount of work. It’s good though as I’m between film projects and it is a great creative outlet for me. So much of acting is spent sitting around, so it is good to be so busy.

Do you have a favourite handbag that you own?
I love my Chanel handbags, those classics can never be duplicated. My favourite is probably the first Chanel bag I ever had, a quilted baby blue one that I was given when I was 17.

Have you always wanted to be involved in fashion?
Not really. I liked fashion growing up but I had never thought about it that much until I became an actor. Suddenly everyone was paying so much attention to what I was wearing that I became really aware of it. I quickly had to learn how to use fashion to my advantage.

Do you have a favourite outfit?
I don’t really have any favourite colours or particular styles, it’s quite dependent on my mood. I do like detail and embellishment though. I like Chlo鬠Lanvin and Zac Posen. I wore an amazing Viktor & Rolf floor-length grey blue gown for a charity event in LA a while ago that I adored. I went to London Fashion Week this season, to Giles’ and Vivienne Westwood’s shows. I love the London designers.

Where is your favourite place to shop?
I love shopping in New York, it is so vibrant. When I come to London I go to all the usual haunts such as Topshop and Portobello Market, which are both favourites of mine. I also have a passion for vintage shopping. Where I live in the Marais in Paris there are some great vintage shops. I recently picked up a beautiful vintage Lanvin shirt dress for just 12 Euro (£10).

Who is your fashion icon and why?
Vivienne Westwood’s clothing epitomises what fashion should be. It is always beautifully cut. It’s amazing the way she throws classic and out-there pieces together.

Fiery Brit designer Vivienne Westwood has been pushing the envelope for fashion since she opened her 1950s-inspired shop, Let it Rock, in Chelsea in 1970. After finding her niche during the punk era, she went on to show her first zips-and-chains catwalk collection in the early 1980s and now shows two different ranges at major fashion weeks – Vivienne Westwood Red Label in London and her mainline in Paris. Always reinventing herself, Westwood is known for her love of tartan and her ability to attract high-profile customers – Dita Von Teese rubbed shoulders with Pamela Anderson and Kate Moss at Westwood’s spring 09 show in London. Her most recent coup was designing the wedding dress worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Sex and the City movie.

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