It has often been said that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. By that some token, I would have to say that for many women, the way to their hearts is through their handbags. And I know many a lady who would fall into that category! So, you can imagine how fun it was that I got to chat with accessories designer Agathe Planchon, founder of Gustto and Miss Gustto. A native of the South of France, Agathe came to this country with big dreams, lots of drive and an amazing sense of design. And she has many a celebrity toting her in-demand bags. She is also about to throw her hat into the reality TV ring, while all along, inspiring other women.
RCR: How did you get your start in the fashion world?
AP: Gustto got started eight years ago when I was working in technology. And my first idea was to design the covers for PDA’s and Palm Pilots. So I created elegant PDA covers for men and women. I went to France and worked with the best manufacturer who was also manufacturing for Hermes. And I had my first review in the Robb Report! That was amazing because I wasn’t coming from the design world, and the products were chic and innovative. And then a few months after, I had my first sales appointment with Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. It was my first foray into the luxury design world. My first order came from the upscale boutique Takashimaya on Fifth Avenue.
RCR: From there, how did you get into designing handbags?
AP: Someone came to me and said why don’t you design a handbag? So I said why not? I can take the challenge. I created my first bag and did my first show in New York. And at that first show, Neiman Marcus came and bought my bag. That was my first big department store order. And after that, it was one order after another! People were lining up at the booth saying I want this bag, I want that one. It took a little over one year from the start of my business to seeing my bags in the store.
RCR: Have you always wanted to be a designer?
AP: Yes. I have always dreamed of working in fashion. That feeling has always been strong inside of me. America is the land of opportunities and you have to grab them when they pass by you. And that is exactly what I did. I had the chance to express my French style and my attention to detail. Things the market didn’t have at that time. And that’s why my products have been very successful.
RCR: Where does your inspiration come from?
AP: Italy. I love the sexiness, glamor and elegance of Italy. I see so much beauty in the men and women there. Particularly in Portofino and Santa Margherita. The landscape, the sea, the rocks, the colors and the architecture are so beautiful.
RCR: Who is the Gustto woman?
AP: She is a women who travels and she is on the go. She needs something functional, which is really important. She is also very elegant and fashionable.
RCR: I know you have several Hollywood starlets as fans.
AP: We have Halle Berry carrying the bags, Jessica Alba carries several of the designs and Eva Longoria carries the clutches a lot, as well as the larger bags. Kim Kardashian has been amazing by carrying the Gustto “Andrea” bag. Cameron Diaz too, and several other A-Listers. Part of the creative process is when you develop a relationship with celebrities and you see them carrying one bag after another of yours, you start to design with them in mind.
RCR: Tell me a little bit about your Miss Gustto line.
AP: When you get big in the fashion world, what is the first thing that people do? Knock off your bag! So I decided, instead of having them knock off my bag, why don’t I re-create the magic of Gustto into a more affordable line, Miss Gustto? So that’s what I did. It’s for the mass market, but I brought all of the attention to detail from the luxury line into Miss Gustto. Now I can sell my bag to all of the girls who have dreamed of having a Gustto bag, but couldn’t afford it. Now they can have Miss Gustto! It’s affordable luxury. Miss Gustto is available at select retailers like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom.
RCR: I hear you are going into reality television. What is that all about?
AP: We are branching out! We have the success of the Gustto handbags and Miss Gustto. It is part of my business strategy. It’s a natural evolution. It will be about fashion, lifestyle, accessories, the business. It will be all about my fashion world. It also serves as an inspiration to women showing them that they can follow their dreams and achieve their goals. That is my story.
RCR: When and where will this be happening?
AP: Probably in a few months. We are aiming for 2013!
RCR: When it comes to handbags, what should every woman have in her closet?
AP: A little bit of everything. Everything from the luxury “logo” bags to purses from H&M. Nowadays, the way women shop is not only the very expensive pieces, but also the more affordable designs. They mix and match. Accessories set the tone of a woman’s wardrobe.
You can shop Gustto and Miss Gustto here.