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story.lead_photo.caption Handbags from the Ella McHugh line are displayed at a May 10-11 trunk show at B. Barnett. - Photo by Helaine Williams

Lawyer-turned-luxury-handbag-designer Ella McHugh debuted her fall 2016 handbag collection May 10-11 at B. Barnett in west Little Rock. Invited to stop by the trunk show, I truly fell in window-shopping love with the merchandise.

Ella McHugh
Photo by Serengeti Eyewear
Serengeti’s limited-edition 24 hours of Le Mans collection takes driving sunglasses up a notch. Styles include the “13,629,” shown with Satin Black frames.
Beginning decades ago with a small line of black cocktail dresses, Mark Badgley and James Mischka are now noted for their classic, clean-lined dresses and ensembles with contemporary details.
Photo by Helaine Williams
Designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka: No Dress Down Fridays in their world.

McHugh is known for sleek, classic day bags and clutches bearing striking colors, materials and workmanship. As I viewed them, they brought back memories. Memories of bags my mother carried back in the day when handbags went hand in hand, so to speak, with wearing gloves.

"The line in general is inspired by old Hollywood glam, sort of '30s and '40s," McHugh said from New York. "I wanted to take the line and [hark] back to that and then modernize it."

The Italian-made bags, which have been carried by various celebrities, are offered in several leathers and reptile skins and in solid and print hues, individually or in color-blocked combinations. Prices range from $1,200-$8,000; a few go for even more. Styles include the Patti and Patti II, envelope styles; Corinne and Corinne II, low, rectangular clutches; the Lauren, a pouch-like style; the Christine, a hobo style; and the Monika, a frame style. Thanks to convertible chains, the Patti and Lauren styles can be carried as clutches -- or not. Each bag features a semiprecious stone as part of its fastener. (The bags' names, McHugh explains, come from "strong women in my life who have been supportive of my career change.")

Mixing the colors and fabrics has been a favorite thing for McHugh to do as a designer. "I try to look for things that are a little bit different, that I haven't seen before," she says. "Or, if I have seen something similar, to use it in a different way."

The fall 2016 collection reflects the notion of an enchanted forest -- "a lot of shades of blue and browns and greens. I think [the] fairy tale is really having a moment right now. So there's a little bit of that sort of enchanted forest feeling in the fall line." Case in point: The dramatic color scheme she has dubbed Arctic, a multi-blue python.

In Arkansas, the bags are exclusive to B. Barnett. McHugh says her line has been well received in the South.

"Women in the South, I think, have a particular attention to detail," she says. "They seem to like to dress up and to go out and like something a little bit different. And I think there is an appreciation for craftsmanship and an old-world way of doing things. Hopefully that all resonates."

DESIGNING MEN

Chatting with McHugh, I thought about Badgley Mischka, the brand showcased in mid-April for Bolo Bash, the Baptist Health luncheon fundraiser.

Thanks to Dillard's, designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka appeared as special guests of the event, providing commentary for a show of their fashions and being interviewed onstage by master of ceremonies Lisa Fischer.

Badgley and Mischka have been mentioned by Vogue magazine as two of America's top designers. Their line conveys sleek sophistication -- like those McHugh bags, these frocks feature classic lines with contemporary coloring and details. Their dresses have been seen on such celebrities as Helen Mirren (who was featured via life-size cutout at Bolo Bash), Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet and Sarah Jessica Parker.

"James and I started our collection nearly 30 years ago with a small group of black cocktail dresses," Badgley recalled before the luncheon. "Our affinity was really not about office clothes. We loved the glamour and the sort of fantasy of evening dressing. And so we always focused primarily on evening clothes."

As their collections expanded over the years, they now do some day clothes, separates and a lot of special occasion clothes. "No matter what we do, even if it's casual or whatever, there's always a thread of glamour that sort of runs through everything that we do," Badgley says.

The men gather fabrics from all over the world. "We travel to Europe extensively -- of course Italy and France are sort of the primary suppliers of couture fabrics," Badgley says. "But right now we're using a lot of fabrics that are sort of weightless -- a lot of sheer mousselines, and chiffons and organzas that have a lot of body and a lot of movement."

Among the couple's 2016 offerings: A gown and dress with silver lace overlays. Spring-like floral print dresses and gowns in fit-and-flare, A-line and Grecian silhouettes. Dresses with skirts that feature lacy, raised-edged floral appliques. Badgley says the men's inspiration for spring 2016 is Buenos Aires in the '50s. "It's ... a beautiful combination of tailored details in our clothes, but mixed with very sensuous, very feminine silhouettes and a certain polish to the clothing that women really loved at that time."

"What makes this collection really special is it's an accessible price point." Instead of five-figure price tags, "these dresses are all a few hundred dollars," Badgley says. (A look at badgleymischka.com shows dresses that are generally $550 and up.)

Badgley and Mischka see themselves as advocates for the endangered art of dressing up.

"James and I have never been big advocates of Dress Down Friday," Badgley says. "I think the world has gotten so casual [and] clothing has gotten so industrial that we still champion dresses that are very feminine ... old-world dressmaking details and beautiful colors and beautiful textures."

WHERE THE EYES MEET

THE ROAD

Serengeti Eyewear announces 24-Hours of Le Mans, a limited-edition collection of six commemorative sunglasses designed to improve the driving experience. Available this year only, the 24 Hours of Le Mans collection "pays homage to the world's oldest active endurance race for sports cars." Models have either ultra-light borosilicate mineral glass lenses from Corning, or Polar PhD lenses made with Trivex material. All lenses are polarized, photochromic and have Spectral Control -- a technology that filters specific light wavelengths, therefore sharpening contrast and improving visual definition.

The collection features six styles, sized to fit most head shapes. Provided with samples of the "13,629," featuring square frames and thicker temples and the "4500," with thin temples, I was duly impressed with their light filtering qualities and the vividness of the sights before me. Styles in the collection range from $200-$280. Visit serengeti-eyewear.com.

Dressing Room appears monthly. Send Arkansas fashion-related tips and news releases to:

hwilliams@arkansasonline.com

High Profile on 05/29/2016

Print Headline: McHugh handbag line premieres at B. Barnett

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