Independent Handbag Designer Awards offer hope

Thursday, June 14, 2018 - 8:55pm

The Independent Handbag Designer Awards

The Independent Handbag Designer Awards Buy this photo
Courtesy of Emily Blumenthal

On Wednesday, Jun. 13, accessory aficionados and industry insiders from around the world gathered at the SVA Theater in Chelsea, New York for the 12th Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards

Hosted by University and Daily alum Emily Blumenthal, the event set out to honor the best up-and-coming talent from around the world with a series of brand-sponsored awards categories, from The Heritage Bag Inspired by Guess to The Conscious Magazine Most Socially Responsible Handbag. Prizes varied based on each category’s respective sponsor, and included a Bernina Sewing Machine, a feature in Accessories Magazine and a spot in the 2019 class of Workshop, a brand incubator run by Macy’s. Every year, IHDA also recognizes one veteran handbag designer with the Carlos Falchi Iconoclast Award; this year’s recipient was Koren Ray of early 2000s favorite HOBO.

Each award was presented by a representative from the category’s sponsor. Winners hailed from China, Venezuela, India, England, Nigeria, Taiwan and Turkey. Each sounded as thrilled as the previous when accepting their accolades onstage. 

“Thank you not only for the validation,” said Fiona Liu, recipient of the award for The Basic Adhesives Best Green Handbag, to the audience, “but thank you for giving me hope.”

For Blumenthal, providing hope is what it’s all about. The goal of her event is to give underappreciated designers a chance to be seen. Previous IHDA winners have gone on to launch their own brands with great success and have been featured in every fashion publication one could imagine. Yliana Yepez, a former winner who was honored during this year’s event, has seen her handbags carried on red carpets by the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Lady Gaga.

Outside of bringing fresh talent into the spotlight, Blumenthal used IHDA 2018 to engage with the greater New York City community. Attendees were encouraged to bring new or lightly used bags to be donated to Bottomless Closet, a New York-based nonprofit working to reduce obstacles faded by women in search of employment. She also gave Rob Scheer, whose charity, Comfort Cases, provides bags full of essentials to kids in foster care, a chance to speak about the needs of at-risk youth today.

“If you’re not giving back within the community you’re part of,” Blumenthal remarked, “what’s really the point?”