Sacai’s Chitose Abe

Sacai’s Chitose Abe, in Paris.

Photographs by Stas Komarovski

Sacai designer Chitose Abe isn’t one to rush into things. Known for her thoughtfully constructed clothes that play with proportions and materials, Abe had worked for more than a decade before formally presenting a collection, carting her wares from Tokyo to Paris Fashion Week, in 2012. And it’s taken her even longer than that to launch Sacai handbags. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” she says of her debut range, which hits stores this month. “Luckily, I was introduced to Katie Hillier, and I thought we would make a good team.” Hillier, of course, is the veteran accessories designer responsible for some of the most popular bags from Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, and Victoria Beckham. Abe and Hillier met through a mutual friend in London last year and bonded over their similar sensibilities. “We both love archetypes,” Hillier says, noting that they carry almost-identical Hermès leather bags. “But I don’t think anybody approaches these familiar forms as cleverly as Chitose. She’s the only person who can mess around with them, and make them look beautiful.” Indeed, working back and forth on e-mail like a stylish game of exquisite corpse (“I’d send her a picture and wonder how she was going to chop it up,” Hillier recalls), the two created extraordinary pieces such as a shaved-mink carryall with croc coin purses for pockets, a leather-trimmed canvas boat tote that buckles like a military laundry bag, and a jazzy horseshoe-shape crossbody that converts to a purse with a simple rejiggering of its brass chain and suede fringed straps. “We shared a lot of creativity and excitement, and I think it comes through,” Hillier says. “It feels like we created something really new.”

Watch W's most popular videos here: