“My husband thought I was a total narcissist,” laughs Brett Heyman, founder of Edie Parker, on the phone from her country house in Connecticut. “‘Why would you ever want your name on your bag?’ But I thought it was so cool.” We’re talking about her stroke-of-genius move to create customizable nameplate bags, distributed to the who’s who of the street-style set during the spring 2013 shows, a year into launching her collection of vintage-inspired acrylic minaudières.
Suddenly, fashion forces such as Leandra Medine—whose pearlescent number was emblazoned “Man Repeller” in black cursive—and Giovanna Battaglia were being snapped clutching their Edie Parkers like photo captions: a great idea gone viral that could only have come from the mind of a former PR director. (Heyman used to head up publicity for Gucci.)
“I picked a few girls who are either friends or people I admired,” Heyman says. “I was floored by the reactions. Anna Dello Russo, whom I had only corresponded with for work, [was photographed] putting that bag on her head. It was amazing!”
The customizable nameplates became available to all last fall. “We had a husband call the other day [wanting] to buy one for his wife,” Heyman says, before bursting into laughter again. “He wanted his name on it!”
Heyman first discovered vintage ’50s and ’60s clutches during her teenage years in Los Angeles, when she scoured vintage racks as an alternative to Urban Outfitters. “There’s this place called Wasteland on Melrose,” she says. “I bought [my first] acrylic clutches there. You could [also] get these cool flannel shirts—I was a grunge child. Some of my style choices were curious, but what’s great about the clutches is that they work with everything.”
With the advent of eBay-abetted vintage hoarding, the clutches became harder to find—and Edie Parker, named after Heyman’s daughter, was born. “It started out of something I wanted to do for myself,” she explains. “And once I had figured out how to make them, it had become such an endeavour that I felt like I had to sell them.”
The line is expanding beyond box clutches for the first time this season with acrylic bangles embellished with gobs of crystals. And while the collection doesn’t look vintage—fall ’13 pieces include a metallic-spangled sunburst compact—the clutches are made in Chicago with handpoured strips of acrylic, the same technique used during their initial style go-round.
“After World War II, American fashion was experimenting with new materials, and plastic was part of this innovation,” Heyman says. The original clutches were an obvious product of the industrial age, their high-gloss finishes and chrome clasps recalling a wing-tipped Chevy. No one since produced minaudières like that—they went out of vogue with the kitten heel—until Edie Parker made a brilliant case for their return.