For all the ballyhoo about It bags, I’ve rarely if ever found any of the hyper-touted totes that are really, truly, well, It. They’re either dated before they hit the shelves, or so festooned with distinguishing lariats, studs, bells and whistles that it all comes off as a jumbled joke. Never mind that their ubiquity makes them all the more insipid.
Not so are the works of Raven Kauffman. Each of her handbags is a carefully crafted composite of eclectic elegance, the result not so much about a seasonal trend but an enduring sense of style.
Chunky labradorite or other semiprecious stones serve as closures on clutches made of supple metallic leathers, etched with a feather print. Stones also stud gold miniaudieres. Metal grills are laser cut with designs of peacock feathers, curling cobras or leaping stags, and cover a layer of actual feathers, colored satins or dyed pony skin.
Feathers feature prominently through her collections: One stunning wristlet is all plumes—some real, others in leather but resembling the real thing; and it’s capped with an ornate gold bangle at the wrist.
Among the pièces de résistance (and they all are in one way or another) is a large clutch fringed with dozens of electric green and blue wings from Indonesian beetles—all individually hand stitched onto the leather. The overall effect is captivating.
Raven is a multi-threat of an artist: I first met her as celeb stylist some years ago, and she has since gone on to become a successful interior and set designer, luxury lifestyle consultant, event planner and aesthetics curator. She moved to Florence last summer and spent months finding the right artisans to execute her vision.
Back in L.A. now, a trunk show was held to showcase her complete collection last Thursday. I had the privilege of hosting the lively affair at Des Kohan, the progressive fashion shop in the mid-Wilshire area. Desiree and Raven even had the good folks at St. Germain concoct a drink called La Vie en Rose. But I was already woozy from the handsome outfit Juan Carlos Obando made for me to wear that evening (see posting below), which I finished with a thick silver necklace by the young designer Gabriela Artigas (who also works at Des Kohan).
Guests such as Katherine Ross, Dita Von Teese, event and product designer Fiona Leahy and stylist Negar Ali were rapturous with praise for Raven's bags, this being their first close up the collection.
The party was, after all, a coming out of sorts for Raven, the real star that night. She’d pulled out all her set tricks for the evening, too, from vintage curios such as ceramic ravens and brass wings to live finches dyed the same shade as the orchids and caged in a Victorian coop.
Raven, Des, J.C. and a bunch of us capped the late night over steak poivre and bottles of rose under the arches in the garden at the Chateau Marmont. But most satisfying of all? Whether it’s the folded shantung of J.C.’s jacket, or the beetle wings dangling from Raven’s clutch, it’s encouraging to see there is another generation of artisans among us, and right here in the U.S.
Raven is off to San Francisco today, taking her trunk show to the home of BV Hoimes. For information contact MDVII@mac.com.
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