I had the sincere pleasure of first being introduced to Margaret Hennessey’s line back in August. I was immediately drawn to her simplistic modern minimal designs. It wasn’t until I actually was able to see one of her handbags first hand (it was actually the lapsang knapsack which I styled here) that I knew I’d be hooked on her brand for life. The attention to assembly and detail is top notch. From the hand stitching around her zippers to the carefully thought out functional aspects (I’m talking easy access zipper on her backpack and the multiple ways you can wear her cashew fanny pack).
Margaret is still a fairly new designer and meeting designers right when they’re starting to get their business off the ground is my favorite. I can’t wait to watch her develop her craft and see the beautiful leather goods she creates next! If you’re interested in learning a little more about Margaret and her brand you can check out the interview I conducted with her below!
What inspired you to start your own handbag line?
I have always loved to make things with my hands and share them with people. Handbags are things that can be truly beautiful if designed and made well, and good ones are like trusty friends. Through this line, I hope to put objects that are beautiful and lasting into the world so people can use and enjoy them for a long time. More selfishly, I love working on a creative project that I have complete autonomy over. Starting this brand has been endlessly challenging and interesting, and I don’t think I’ll be bored with it anytime soon!
Where did you learn to make handbags?
I taught myself! I learned to sew when I was a kid, and I started making bags a couple years ago. I first tried to replicate simple bags I had seen, then did a lot of experimenting. I read a lot online, got a few books, and watched many, many videos. I am always scrutinizing bags I see to figure out how they’re constructed. I’m still very much learning, and I hope that continues for the rest of my life.
What motivates you?
The opportunity to be my own boss and have complete autonomy is a big one, although not having anyone tell you what to do is a double-edged sword of course. But the more momentum I get with sales and exposure, the easier it is for me to go to my studio every day and keep plugging away. The positive feedback and encouragement has been really energizing!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I look for objects that have been refined over time, whether by the designer/artist or by nature. I love Josef Albers, especially his drawings, because there’s not a single line that doesn’t need to be there. I love Henry Moore sculptures and smooth beach stones. In the Ancient Egypt room in the North Carolina Museum of Art, there is a bowl made out of a white stone, maybe alabaster. The sides of the bowl are so thin, they’re translucent. It doesn’t have any adornment at all; it’s just this perfectly proportioned object. And it’s over 3000 years old, which blows my mind. I find that bowl totally mesmerizing and think about it a lot. That might sound a little strange, but for me it’s this perfect example of refined beauty that is literally timeless.
Of all of your pieces, which is your favorite and why?
People kept asking me to make a fanny pack, and I resisted for a long time. But then I developed the design for the Cashew Mini, and now I wear it every day. I love that you can wear it on a hike or out to a bar and it looks great no matter what.
What is one goal that you have for the Margaret Hennessey brand?
One goal is to get to a point where I have a small production team that handles day-to-day orders, so that I can have more time for developing new designs and working on custom orders. Right now, I am involved in the production of every single bag, with support from a production assistant. I have no plans to outsource production, but I want to get to a point where I am overseeing production, rather than working on individual orders. That will be a slow process though, because I’m obsessed with quality and never want to compromise on that. But, this goal is a really important one for me…I want this work to continue to push me creatively, so I need to make time and space for that.
Who are some of your style icons?
I tend to like somewhat androgynous styling. Katharine Hepburn, Grace Jones, and Tilda Swinton are favorites.
What would be your advice for someone who is trying to start their own brand?
Find the difference between things you can teach yourself how to do even if it’s not your favorite thing vs. things you should really enlist someone’s help for to get done properly. Unless you happen to have a pot of gold to draw from, you are going to need to make decisions about how to use your limited resources. Everyone is different, but I tend to pay for advice on strategy and brand development more than for concrete services like website design, which I can teach myself how to do. It’s a hard balance, having a business is about more than just doing what you’re passionate about…it’s also about wearing all those other hats that you might feel under-qualified to wear!
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!