Since fashion month started, one brand name relentlessly kept popping up in my inbox, and it technically had nothing to do with the catwalk show schedule. Press releases from a handbag label called Stalvey just didn't stop flooding in. And this isn't down to overzealous PR work—this is because today's supermodels (think Gigi Hadid, Kaia Gerber and friends) have got brand-new, ultra-luxe bags, and they aren't afraid to wear them—all the time.
And so you probably would too if your bag was one of Stalvey's now-recognisable beauty box creations: Made in the USA, rendered in exotic skins, celebrating fine craftsmanship and usually coming in at around the £10k mark, it'd be lunacy to tote one just once. But this exclusive club also marks an interesting point in the life cycle of the It bag. We've (gladly) come accustomed to being able to save up for a new breed of more affordable arm candy: Mansur Gavriel, Little Liffner, Simon Miller and many other labels have stepped in to fill a gap that had been a gaping black hole of opportunity for some time. But for the cool, young luxury consumers out there, it's nice to have something new to add to the regular roster of Hermès Birkin, Valextra Iside and Goyard weekender bags.
So we wanted to know more. What is Stalvey? Where did it come from? Who is behind it? And how did the most influential crew on planet fashion get their hands on it? Keep reading to get our interview with the founder, neuroscientist-turned-designer Jason Stalvey.
On Gigi Hadid: Stalvey Mini Beauty Case (£11,700)
WHO WHAT WEAR UK: Can you tell us a little about your route into founding your own handbag line?
JASON STALVEY: Starting the company happened as quite a surprise—needless to say, it wasn't the plan. My background is in medicine and business—far removed from design. I thought I was always more of a fashion consumer, but now looking back, it seems I was always drawn to the industry from an early age. All things considered, I think everyone, including myself, ended up being shocked that it took me so long to venture into the fashion space.
WWW UK: What prompted you to set up your brand?
JS: I was always extremely neat and organised as a kid, [and I] always liked having dedicated spaces for things. As I got older, not even realizing it, I started accumulating quite a number of interesting bags and trunks, which I always justified by using them as storage. Alligator being one of the most durable leathers there is, I felt like I needed an alligator duffel. I couldn't find one, so I thought I'd figure out how to make my own. From that point, everything was like a snowball effect.
On Kaia Gerber: Stalvey Janice Mini Tote (£2800)
WWW UK: What sets Stalvey apart from other luxury competitors?
JS: I think one thing that we try to do differently is take something that is thought to be über precious and rework it into something that is more everyday and user-friendly—pristine luxury but with ease.
WWW UK: How did the likes of Kaia Gerber and Bella Hadid come to start carrying the brand?
JS: Honestly, seeing some of this stuff roll out surprises me. As a kid, I remember stopping dead in my tracks watching Cindy Crawford in her Pepsi commercial. If someone had even whispered that I would one day be designing the bag that Kaia Gerber, her daughter, would carry around to all the various cities for her debut fashion week, I would have thought they lost their mind. It's been an interesting ride.
WWW UK: Outside of celebrity circles, where and with whom are your bags most popular?
JS: I think the feedback from our customers, regardless of their demographics, is always the same—it's the girl who's looking for something different. Either they're the mature exotics collector who has been looking for something to add into the mix or they are the younger customer who has always opted towards a more contemporary bag at the risk of exotic coming across a bit stuffy. It's a great feeling to be able to offer something that is a bit different.
On Bella Hadid: Stalvey Alligator Top Handle 2.0 (£10,350)
WWW UK: We're in a time where lots of It bags are more affordable (like the many contemporary brands that hit the £300 mark). What do you see in the market for more expensive leather goods?
JS: I think more and more people are leaning towards craftsmanship and quality, particularly in their accessories. And I think a lot of designer brands lately have opted for a lot of embellishments that can tie a bag to a particular season, which is fun in the moment but could soon look dated. I think part of our success has been in creating something that is timeless. Undoubtedly, our price points can run quite steep, [but] I find that people are willing to pay extra for something if they feel they can get an unlimited number of uses.
WWW UK: What are your plans for Stalvey?
JS: As much as I love the design world, I think my roots in science will always play a part. In trying to offer a fresh take on exotics, we try to think about how we can rework something so classic and traditional. Over the past two years, we worked alongside one of the top tanneries in the world, as well as one of the leading aeronautical companies to find a way to embed actual 24kt gold particles into alligator skin.
The price points are, of course, a bit different than our normal scale, however, we are literally taking a precious leather and combining it with fine jewellery. The end products come with a certificate certifying the content of gold, as well as an "S 24kt" stamping on the back. We partnered with Harrods as the exclusive retailer to introduce this new technology to market, and excitedly enough, the first pieces went on the retailer's shelves just a week ago. I think we all are super excited to see how people respond—the nerdy science guy in me would love to continue trying to add a bit to technology into what we do.