Luxury handbags grab spotlight at Paris fashion week

Mon Oct 4, 2010 9:31am EDT
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By Nick Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Parisian chic has many emissaries but none quite so playful as luxury handbag designer Olympia Le Tan, whose third collection based on maps and globes brings new bag shapes and more of her signature handiwork.

Her bags are produced to order in sets of 16 and hand-stitched in a Parisian studio at a time when haute couture, and the world of fashion more broadly, is shedding its taboo about outsourcing and growing ever more globalised.

The trendy designer who came of age as the assistant of former Balmain creative director Gilles Dufour told Reuters ahead of her show that she had no intention of turning her boutique business into an international franchise.

"I like the fact that it's a boutique," she said in an interview in a hotel room, surrounded by her bags. "We work as a family and I have a hand in everything the brand puts out.

For her third show, held late on Sunday in a planetarium in Paris, the half-British Le Tan branches off from the book cover designs which established her name with trendsetters to take an unlikely turn into the world of cartography.

Maps, globes and books with titles such as "Man in the Sky" are the main inspiration for her show and give each new object a distinctive form, with many handbags losing their angles and taking on circular shapes as well as globes.

The spark for the show came in April when the eruption of a volcano in Iceland interrupted her vacation plans and got her thinking about the state of the planet in playful, irreverent terms, Le Tan said.

"There were no flights above Europe for a week, it felt like something was going seriously wrong -- some people were even talking about the end of the world in 2012, which I found very funny at the time," she said.   Continued...

<p>Olympia Le-Tan handbags are seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>