During Fashion Week I met the very lovely and very stylish Brigette Romanek, designer of Romanek line of bags. We went for drinks at Pipas, a cute little tapas and sangria place in Chelsea and bonded from “hello”. We had so much fun talking about everything under the sun; from bags to babies (we each have one, a boy for me, a girl for her- we’re setting them up!) that I almost forgot to ask her the list of questions I had prepared for her profile! We even ran off poor Debra, who set up the meeting, she couldn’t get a word in between our gabbing and left early for another appointment but B and I? We hung out as long as possible before reluctantly going off to our other obligations later that evening.
Known for her “Rock Star” clutch, Brigette is no stranger to rock stars herself. Wife of Mark Romanek, one of the top Music Video and Film directors in the industry, and daughter of legendary singer Paulette McWilliams (who sang with Rufus until she introduced him to her friend Chaka Khan and left the group), Brigette was a successful singer in her own right until her career as full time mother and bag designer took over. Brigette’s rise to bag stardom is one of Hollywood dreams, in two short years, her Rock Star clutch has become not only an iconic bag coveted by rock stars (Sheryl Crow), movie stars (Demi Moore) and super models (Kate Moss) alike, it has also made it to an exhibit at the Pasadena Museum! So where do you go from designing an instant “it” bag on your first try? Why, design an entire line of drool worthy bags of course!
In between exchanges of Gardenia oils, baby tales and sangria, I managed to conduct my interview so you can get to know Brigette, up close and personal:
Bag Snob: What was the inspiration behind the Rock Star clutch?
Brigette Romanek: My friends and I decided to make Christmas gifts for each other in 2005. I decided to make bags, handbags are a passion of mine. I brought home a piece of farmed crocodile skin and spent nights twisting and turning the material (both in my mind and my hands) to discover the possibilities which ended up becoming the Rock Star Clutch. When I took it to the manufacturer, they said it wasn’t possible to do what I wanted to but I was not taking no for an answer!
Bag Snob: So you gave the most amazing crocodile clutch to your friends for Christmas, how did they react?
Brigette: They wanted me to make them more colors! People on the street were stopping them to ask where they could purchase it… and the idea for a luxury bag collection was born. My passion for the craft of handbag-design runs deep. I really try to put something of my own soul into every bag I make.
Bag Snob: That is such an amazing story, a gift of love for your best friends became gifts to bag lovers around the world! Are there other bags in the works?
Brigette: Right now there are five main bag styles. The Rock Star, the Starlet, the Lizzy, the Note Bag, the Wow and the Alli. It is not only a source of enormous satisfaction and pride that these bags are enjoyed and appreciated by women all over the world… it is literally a dream-come-true for me.
Bag Snob: What are the hot colors for the Spring bag line?
Brigette: Mandarin, Pink, Bright blue, all very vibrant hues. Exotics remain the focus but we also have suede and lambskin.
Bag Snob: Who are your style icon(s)?
Brigette: My mother, Paulette McWilliams for her insanely great style. She sang with Rufus before introducing him to Chaka Khan, I traveled the globe with her from a young age and her individualistic style was a huge influence on me.
My close friends, Lisa Eisener (photographer and art book publisher) and Jacqui Getty (costume designer), are also sources of inspiration.
Bag Snob: What do you prefer? Heels or flats?
Brigette: It depends, I love both Lanvin flats and Proenza Schouler heels.
Bag Snob: Your favorite Getaway?
Brigette: Four Seasons at Kona on the Bluff
Bag Snob: What’s on your night table?
Brigette: Book- “The Beautiful Fall”, Magazines- Vogue and Cookie, Baby monitor and Dyptique candle.
Bag Snob: Your fave musical artists?
Brigette: Donny Hathaway, Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Phoebe Snow and of course my mother.
Bag Snob: What’s your morning routine like?
Brigette: I am up with my 18 month old by 5:30am. We stretch a bit, read a book, I give her milk and then she’ll go in the playroom while I work for a little bit. We eat breakfast together before starting our day.
Bag Snob: I love that your designs are so beautiful yet functional. Tell me more about that process.
The Alli $12,000
Brigette: Once I feel I’m on to something distinctive, an enormous amount of ever-refined prototypes are fashioned. (In a further effort at individuality, most of the bag’s charms and notions are custom-designed and manufactured.) All during this process, I place each bag under the arm to see if the shape looks and feels the way I want a great bag to feel. I place my usual evening items into each bag to see if the shape retains its elegance. I “road-test” them at dinner parties, red carpet events, and just out shopping in jeans to personally assess the comfort, ease-of-use and, versatility of each bag.
I assess the bag’s “wow-factor” by noting the reaction of friends, colleagues, and – in many cases — strangers. The goal – always — is not only to design something beautiful in-and-of-itself (something sexy, yet timeless), but to serve a woman’s needs, complement her ensemble without overpowering it, and — most importantly — to enhance a woman’s sense of self-confidence and allure.
The Starlet $595