It was failing to find a pink leather bag that prompted Alison van der Lande to design her own range, she tells Lauren Johnson
Why did you start designing handbags?
I’ve always loved luggage, handbags and leather - and shopping. About five years ago I wanted a weekend bag, but in the £400 to £500 price range the leather bags only came in brown and black, and I wanted a pink bag. Since I couldn’t find anything I liked at a reasonable price, it got me thinking that I couldn’t be the only one wanting the same things. So I started making a bag for myself exactly how I wanted it to look. The first bag I made was the Classico weekender and then I made the Bella matching handbag.
How has the brand developed since its launch in 2004?
Five years ago I had one product and we started getting orders immediately for it. Then the press started taking notice of what we were doing and we got coverage in magazines. We got into London Fashion Week and had to start making two big collections per year.
I had to start thinking about new styles, colours and materials for my bags to keep them up to date. As the bags grew in popularity, we got more stockists.
What inspires you?
I love colour. It makes me smile and brings out the inner happiness in me. So I’m always looking at colours and textures for inspiration. I also always attend the Lineapelle trade show in Bologna, Italy. I’ll go looking for one thing and find something else even better.
How important is it to show at trade events such as London Fashion Week?
Very important, because the show basically becomes our chance to be seen in London, as I’m based in Hampshire. I am able to see and meet people and feel part of the British fashion industry.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
Setting up your own business can be all-consuming. You need motivation and passion for the business and have to be devoted to it. However, I’m also a mother of three, so I need to find a balance between work and family. I can’t let the business take over my life.
What measures do you have to take to be successful during the current climate?
You have to look at every cost and justify it. You also must make sure the value you will receive in return is right and your product is targeted for the best price. PR and marketing is important to continue to build awareness about a company.
What is the hardest thing about being a designer?
Making sure you like whatever is designed. If I don’t like something, then I don’t have faith and conviction in it. It is important to stay true to yourself as well as keeping in mind the things other people want.
What can we expect from the Alison van der Lande brand over the next year?
Our new collection includes the Prince bag and I have high hopes for it. I would like to look at getting into the US and widening our markets outside of London. The time is right with the recession because people want to treat themselves with a stylish handbag that will last a long time at a reasonable price.
Who do you think is the most stylish celebrity?
I like model and lingerie designer Elle Macpherson, because she can look fabulous in just jeans and a T-shirt.
Who is your favourite designer?
I love Valentino and the way he used the fun element of colour with classic designs.
Where is your favourite place to shop?
House of Fraser and Harrods. You can get everything you need under one roof.
Which is your favourite fashion era?
I loved the shoulder pad trend from about 20 years ago. I used to feel naked without a shoulder pad and used to get fabulous ones when I was in California. Now they’re coming back into style.
- Alison van der Lande is designer and owner of the eponymous handbag brand