I first heard about Alles Bags—or at least the concept—in between takes with our cover model Steffie Price. During a rare break, we started chatting and she told me about her design journey. I told her, as I do a lot of emerging designers, to contact me when the brand was launched. Thankfully, she did just that. It's so exciting to watch the birth of a brand, and one as practical and stylish as this deserves a little love. Here, we delve a little deeper into the journey from concept to creation. Congrats Steffie! — ANGELA GILLTRAP
How would you describe Alles' designs? Modern, functional, & fashionable.
How do you think working as a model has helped shaped your brand? Working as model definitely had a large impact on the importance of functionality in our bags. At one point in time my shoulders actually ended up painfully crooked because of the weight of the multiple bags I had been carrying around on my shoulders. This in turn messed up my runway walk! That was when I knew and decided I had to find a solution.
Working in designer showrooms has also given me a lot of insight to the sales side of our brand. As a showroom model your job is to show clothes to buyers from all of the big department stores—who are always brutally honest. The buyers have to think about what their store's ideal customers want, which means that the buyers cannot just order what they might like personally. This is true for style, color, sizes, materials, decorations etc. So keeping our ideal customer in mind was a large factor during the designing process.
What does Alles mean? “Alles” is the German word for everything because that’s what most of us end up carrying in our handbags! I am also half German so it’s been important to me to remember my heritage and the sacrifices my family made to give us a better life in the U.S.
How long has it been from concept to creation, in getting this idea to market? I had the idea for the bags almost four years ago when I was working in Hong Kong. A group of models and I were complaining about how tiresome it is to carry multiple bags with all of our necessities around in the brutal Hong Kong heat, and we all started brainstorming to come up with a sort of “dream bag” that could suit our needs. When I returned to the U.S., I discussed the idea with my Mom and we started making bag prototypes out of poster boards, foam, cloth and cardboard. Our sewing skills with leather were not the best, so we hired an amazing design graduate and a talented intern from SCAD who helped us make our creations come to life. From there we found, after multiple tries, a capable and dedicated manufacturer. We went through (at least) six different runs of samples—which took over a year—until we got all of the hundreds of details of our designs perfect, and then were finally able to go into production.
What have you learned most about yourself during the process? I’ve realized how much I love to create. When I was a teenager, I was always buying vintage clothes from thrift shops and cutting and sewing them into something modern. I taught myself Photoshop and Html for fun, and created mock ads and magazine articles. Once I started modeling full-time I stopped these time consuming hobbies to focus on my career and in turn, sort of lost that creative side of myself. As a model, you don’t usually get to call the shots on what looks good on you or how to present something, those who hire you make all of these decisions. However, being on so many different sets, runways and stages did give me valuable insight into the business mindset of many successful, innovative and experimental people. I have gained a lot knowledge and even a few insider secrets from having been part of their world. Now, I am ready and determined to combine that knowledge with the skills I started learning at an early age and really tap into my inventive side.
Do you have a new found respect for designers? Absolutely. I used to do a lot of fit modeling, and I would see how important the smallest details are, half an inch can make a huge difference in look, style and fit! Now that I’ve experienced the actual processes of making our bags I understand even more how stressful it can be going through sample after sample until you finally get all the even tiny details everything down to a T. And in the end you still don’t know if this is what your customers will like.
We love that you included camera bags in your lineup, how did that come about? When I first started modeling at thirteen, my Mom would always come to my photo shoots with me. She noticed that all of the photographers I worked with always had the same black, bulky, boring bags that often lacked functionality. A hobby photographer herself, she was inspired to create colorful, patterned, and of course uber functional camera bags. She believes that your camera bag should be as colorful and attractive as your photography.
Have you been surprised by people's reactions so far? Yes, I am. A part of me was always worried that my ideas were too “out there” and no one would like them, but so many people have fallen in love with the designs. I realized that our bags are about so much more than carrying shoes. We have hair stylists, young mothers, ballerinas, and personal trainers as customers and they have all been so creative and versatile in using our Alles Bags! — AllesBags.com