Don’t let Nancy Gonzalez’s soft-spoken demeanor fool you. The petite, Colombia-born designer made the decision to start her own business more than a decade ago and hasn’t slowed down since. Drawing upon her passion for all things indigenous to her native country (with a particular love of pre-Columbian ceramics), Gonzalez debuted a seven-piece collection of exotic handbags at Bergdorf Goodman in New York in 1998. Today, her line is sold at more than 400 luxury retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue at Waterside Shops in Naples. Her bags generally range from $1,500 to $4,000.
While her loyal customers covet the designer’s bags for their uniqueness, luxe materials and exquisite detail, Gonzalez says when she designs, she’s simply trying to “convey joy.” “I incorporate elements that make us smile—a color, a texture, a detail, a surprise,” she says. Gonzalez’s use of exotic skins such
as python and crocodile has become her signature.
“I always try to push the limits of what can be done with precious skins.”
This mother of two, who describes her opulent designs as “chic, effortless and beautiful product at the right price,” has been a driving force for social change in Colombia. She employs mostly women at her company and provides daycare for their children. The company’s mission, she says, is to provide her employees with “dignity, optimism and a rewarding work environment.” With our Style Council’s questions at the ready, I chatted with this woman who is equal parts substance and style.
Where do you source your materials? Are
your bags made here or abroad?
My bags are handcrafted by a team of local artisans in Colombia. My materials are sourced all over the world, based on where the best is.
You recently designed a beautiful, unique handbag using washed cork. What inspires you?
Nature is my best accomplice. The collaboration with nature has always fascinated me. The source of my inspiration is life. In the case of the hand-painted cork, the idea behind that bag was making a humble material like cork luxurious by using a white paint wash to exalt its texture.
Snakeskin has become a signature with your
bags. How do you create those incredible looks
I love snakeskin. It’s fascinating that nature could create such a perfect pattern. I have enjoyed treating it in different ways, such as hand-painting it in all hues, from tangerine-orange to vibrant fuchsia to the gold of the sun. All our skins are naturally dyed and then buffed to bring out the colorful luster of my bags.
What’s been the greatest influence on your style?
My biggest influence growing up was the exuberance of the landscape in my native Colombia.
How did you decide to become a designer
and start your own business?
I started designing handbags in 1988. It has always been a dream of mine to sell in New York, which is the capital of the world. Bergdorf Goodman gave me that opportunity.
The word “luxury” means a great many things to different people. What does it mean to you?
To me, the two most important luxuries in the world are choice and time. I feel in my design, I
provide choice and timelessness.
What is it about Southwest Florida that inspires you? How would you characterize the style of your clients that live here?
Because I am Colombian, I have always spent a lot
of time in Florida. The tropical weather and the mixture of cultures make it a lively, interesting melting pot. There is a unique celebration of cultural differences here which I find very alluring.
What are the goals for your collections?
We offer the promise of imperishable style with objects that are continuous and timeless in our clients’ lives.
Celebrities and socialites such as as Carrie
Underwood and Carolyne Roehm own your bags. What do you enjoy most about working with actresses? How has that exposure affected the brand?
Celebrities are a reflection of our popular culture. When one who represents the correct values gives me the honor of wearing my product, it is very rewarding.
Where do you see your label going in the future?
I am interested in brand extensions as long as they make sense and can stand alone on their own merit. So whatever we make needs to be excellent in its category more so than just by being labeled “Nancy Gonzalez.”
Gulfshore Life’s Style Council
Led by Denise Cobb, the members include Penny Anderson, Patty Baker, Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins,
Amy Oshier, Connie Rosellini and
WHERE TO BUY NANCY GONZALEZ
Saks Fifth Avenue
Waterside Shops, 5395 Tamiami Trail N., Naples; 592-5900.