Gimme Some Skin
Last week I stopped by handbag designer Paige Gamble’s new by-appointment-only atelier, located just above the Pucci store on East 64th Street, for a visit. The whitewashed, 500-square-foot space is spare, but the exotic skin bags that line the walls and tables are anything but—there are clutches in metallic copper alligator, yellow ostrich, raspberry stringray and bumpy luggage-colored crocodile, to describe a few. “Our customers have definitely had the “It” bags,” says Gamble, whose client list includes Queen Noor and Carolyne Roehm. “Now they want something they just fall in love with, not because it’s a label, but because it’s beautiful.”
One of Gamble’s current favorites is a slouchy tote made of Empire python, a gorgeously textured and precious skin that rarely makes its way into big-name bags. “There are only about 50 skins a year that become available,” she says, adding, “large labels have to make big multiples so they often can’t use them. We get as much as we can.”
Gamble, a low-key Connecticut native and former Wall Streeter, began toying with the idea of an accessories line four years ago. Inspired by a turquoise-stone covered Yves Saint Laurent bag, she went looking for fabrics that could complement her own gemstone-bedecked creations. When she discovered a crocodile skin at a tannery in New Haven, she stopped searching. Today, many of her bags (priced from $1100 to $4200) are decorated with unexpected jewels, like hand-carved jade pieces (she travels to China every year to pick out a stash) and unpolished obsidian “fingers.” But just as many are unadorned.
Shapes are classic, chic and, as Gamble admits, frequently don’t hold much more than a credit card. But she’s developing a series of roomy, soft totes and structured purses for fall. And her most whimsical item has to be the lunch boxes (see our May issue for a peek). Though they’re done up in pony, anaconda and other exotics, they’re an exact replica of the childhood staple – complete with a matching thermos. “I hear everything from ‘I have to have one in every color’ to ‘I don’t take my lunch to work so it wouldn’t work for me,’” Gamble says with a laugh. “We let people know that it’s not literally for your lunch, although you’re certainly welcome to use it that way. I hope someone does.”
Paige Gamble Atelier, 866.544.8080, paigegamble.com