Time and time again, Gigi Hadid has let it be known that when it comes to her fashion icons, Rihanna rules above all. It would seem that one key ingredient of Rihanna's style has really resonated with Hadid: supporting young designers. Case in point: Stalvey, the luxury handbag line founded in 2014 by designer Jason Stalvey, which Hadid has been carrying almost exclusively when it comes to hitting the streets this summer. Hadid has been spotted with the brand's mini-top handle bag on over ten separate occasions over the past few months, accenting her New York summer looks with versions of the style in natural lizard, black lizard and white alligator. Here, the designer talks about how his bags ended up in Hadid's hands, and his tips for how to style a mini bag.
How did you first get started on designing handbags?
Honestly, it was a bit of a fluke. I wanted an alligator duffel and couldn’t find many options on the market. I didn’t know much about skins and craftsmanship at the time, but I knew that the ones I found weren’t at the quality I had seen on high-end handbags. Not realizing the process would be so involved—and take years of research—I figured I would create one myself. Once I had immersed myself in the process and created the first bag, people started responding to what I was doing and the ball just keeps rolling.
What are the key styles of the brand?
I think the one style that sums up what the brand is about is the baseball cap—it’s about taking an unexpected every day essential and turning it into something that’s uber luxurious.I’m very much a casual kind of guy—usually wearing a t-shirt and a baseball cap—so when we first did the baseball cap, it was more of less for myself. I think the factory thought I was a bit crazy taking precious alligator skin and making a cap out of it, but it has turned out to be one of our best sellers.
What is important to you in designing a bag?
Functionality. I’m an extreme perfectionist and always have been, so naturally I want every product to be gorgeous and perfectly crafted. However, regardless as to how beautiful it is, if it doesn’t function well, I didn’t do my job correctly. I’m a huge believe in cost-per-wear and if something doesn’t function well, people won't want to use it and it wont be a good investment for them.
Tell me about the design process.
My process comes out of a need to solve a problem rather than felling a certain inspiration. If I see a design that throws the eye off a little because it’s not quite the right shape… or say a shoulder strap that doesn’t sit correctly… I get the urge to polish it and improve upon it.
How did the brand land in Gigi’s closet?
It was a combination of factors that came together all at once. I have known Gigi's makeup artist, Patrick Ta, for a number of years and I ran into him in the West Village one day with Mimi Cuttrell, who is Gigi’s stylist. When Patrick introduced us, she quickly pulled up images of our products on her phone saying that Gigi actually loved the bags.
Have you met Gigi yet?
We have Facetimed once or twice, but would be great to meet her in person.
Why do you think she has clearly responded so well to the top handle style?
Goes back to functionality and ease of use; Gigi seems to be an on the move kind of person and I can only imagine that she responded to the bag because it works easily into her day to day. And, of course, she looks super hot carrying it.
What makes that style so special?
It’s a very classic shape that has been made to feel fresh. And at a moment when so much in fashion comes with all sorts of embellishments, I think there is a lot of beauty in pieces, particularly accessories, which are clean and modern.
What is your favorite way to style that bag?
I loved when people started sending me pictures of Gigi using the bag as a phone charger—she had on this beautiful flow-y pink outfit, had her mobile in her hand with a charging cord coming out of the bag. The size bag she has been carrying so much only 20 centimeters… she must have only had a Mophie charger, her AMEX, and perhaps a lipstick inside. That’s kind of the epitome of what our brand is about; luxury with ease.
Who else would you love to see wearing Stalvey?
Would love for anyone to wear a piece that I’ve made—especially if they enjoy it half as much as Gigi seems to have!
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