NEW YORK, N.Y. - Richard Lambertson and John Truex are rock stars at the flagship Fifth Avenue Tiffany & Co. store. Their new collection of leather goods has men buying purple wallets and women lining up at mirrors to model bags from the design duo.
There was even an autograph moment on a recent visit, when a woman asked them to sign three pricey purses for her daughters. The two were happy to oblige: The boom feels good 1 1/2 years after they landed in bankruptcy court and their namesake line was sold to Tiffany.
The first few months at Tiffany was spent absorbing the atmosphere, Lambertson says, getting to know people who shop there and understanding the different demographics of a variety of locations.
While the New York store attracts a lot of professionals and tourists both needing totes, for example, Palm Beach, Fla., has snowbirds looking for luggage. The designers collected tearsheets from magazines and newspapers depicting shoppers, making up backstories about whether a particular person had a vacation home or if they were business or leisure travellers.
They still watch the way customers feel the leather, flip a bag over the shoulder and compare weights of various wallets. Even with their own expertise, there is still something to be learned from consumers, Lambertson says with a smile.
Truex never doubted their ability to create products that people want — and are willing to pay sometimes thousands of dollars for. A croc tote bag on the Tiffany website, for example, is listed at $8,500, while the small reversible suede shopper is $395.
Their work is worthy of "the Tiffany experience," says Jon King, the company's executive vice-president. "Their vision and mastery of the craft combined with the skill of the finest Italian artisans have produced a leather collection of timeless simplicity."
The admiration is mutual.
Partnering with a famous retailer that already carved its place in the heart of the public offers an almost limitless marketplace, Truex says. "If this Tiffany blue doesn't make you happy then something is wrong. Who doesn't get excited when they see the bag or the box?"
That signature light blue colour has been strategically incorporated into the collection, giving a little wink as a bag's lining, exterior stitching or key fob.
On a practical note, Truex explains that the bag's bright colour inside instead of the usual black or brown makes it easier to find things.
"Luxury isn't necessarily a brand name," says Truex. "It's the thought process and design details that matter. ... With something like a $1,200 price tag, we don't want you to carry it for only a season. We want to give you something for the cost."
What to look for
John Truex shares what to look for in a bag:
- Movement It should be one movement to put a bag in position on the body, whether it's worn on the shoulder, at the crook of the arm, over the body or in one's hands.
- The strap The length of the strap or handle should accommodate the season, with longer ones in the winter to allow for bulky coats or gloves.
- Manageable Hardware should be manageable with one hand. If it takes two to open a bag or get into a pocket, it's one too many.
- Essentials Credit cards, business cards or ID badges should slide in and out without a breaking-in period.
But more than ease or ergonomics, the best purses, totes or briefcases make the wearer feel good. "When you see a woman looking in a mirror, trying on a new handbag, she's looking at herself, not the bag. She'll fix her hair and her jacket, and that's the way it should be," Lambertson says.
People likely spend more time with their bag than their spouse — together from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Truex adds. "It's an extension of you, an extension of your day and the way you dress. ... Your bag needs to be your best friend. You tell it all your secrets — just think of what goes inside it."
Overall, women are driven to new bags by fashion, flattering silhouettes and a desire for newness, while men usually end up carrying the briefcase, messenger or wallet that someone else in their lives bought for them. If left to his own devices, though, a man often pays more attention to size and weight than esthetics.
What his wife thinks matters, too, Truex says, recalling a recent shopping spree by a couple. She bought a purple alligator handbag and the husband bought the matching wallet as an indication of how much he loved her. "It was really cute," Truex gushes.
Purple alligator was, in fact, the first colour to sell out in the men's department.