If New York "called" us, New York harassed Camille Zarsky--a determined, passionate accessories designer from Houston, Texas. Camille so kindly welcomed us into her apartment to take pictures of her product and pick her brain about the trials and tribulations of life as a young New York designer. We quickly came to find that, not only is she an amazing designer, but she is quite the host as she was prepared with treats for our visit. We decided if her macaroons were anything near the quality level of her handbags, we would be more than pleased to indulge and commenced to do so over tea and a beautiful view of the Hudson river.
Knowing her background lies in Houston, it is no surprise Camille creates handbags, wallets, and cuffs, made of python. For Camille, everything starts with the python. "It is a raw, luxury material thatfuses ruggedness with something beautiful," she described. "There is so much texture and richness... it moves." It definitely moves, we agreed--it moves us to want to replace our lesser handbags for one of Camille's designs. She has created a signature style that is both young and hip but also a perfect option for the high end consumer--an American made, luxury brand that is timeless, unbranded, and handcrafted in New York. She identifies Kelly Framel, of the Glamourai, as her perfect audience. "Kelly is girly yet conservative and does a great job mixing high and low in a very wearable way," said Camille of Kelly, who very often showcases Camille's designs in her posts.
Camille started her career at the age of 18 interning for Houston designers during summer breaks. Her heart, however, was always set on New York. One lucky afternoon she hit it off with the "right" woman sitting next to her in a pedicure salon, who connected Camille to a very competitive Hugo Boss internship in New York. She got the internship and the rest is history. She returned to school after her internship but didn't leave New York for long. Upon completion of school she moved back to Manhattan working in private label designs for brands like J. Crew and Ava Rose, where she landed the head design position at only 23. Not long after she started her role as Rebecca Minkoff's direct intern. Her internship with Rebecca inspired her to move deeper into fashion and she determined that in styling, she would meet everyone she needed to know.
In styling she quickly learned the importance of time management, serious discipline, a humble attitude, and the need to be extremely social. "If you want to succeed in styling it has to be your world--you cannot get tired, you cannot get exhausted." She attributes much of her success to her friend, Kim Johnson. Kim, who Camille describes as "an amazing stylist, incredible person, and big mentor," introduced Camille into the styling world, where she worked her ass off, at one point working unpaid for 6 months. After networking and establishing some valuable relationships, Camille decided she would use her savings to follow her original passion: accessories design. And how far she has come within just one year of launching her line! She went from interning as stylist for Vogue Latin America to a feature of her own product inthe upcoming issue of Vogue Italia on model Jessica Stam.
Her dream? To sell her product in Bergdorf Goodman. And why not, we asked? In New York it seems all dreams are possible. New York, after all, is a major reason for her success thus far. Living in this city, from which all American fashion flows, and seeing some of the most incredible bags in the world she has gotten a sense for, "beautiful craftsmanship and refined designs." She is inspired by interesting places and creative collaborations that t take place on a daily basis. Camille is constantly evaluating where her product fits in the market. Design is one thing but getting your business organized and running on its own fuel is another. She has realized that getting her products on big box retailer's shelves is purely a matter of business which requires turning off her emotions. But she doesn't stop trying, "don't stop until the buyer says they dont like your designs and want absolutely nothing to do with you," she says, "...the trick is to get them on the phone--you just need to get on their radar."
Well Camille, you are certainly on our radar! Pictured with her dog Phillip (her other pug Daisy was having a bad picture day), she is one of those people who deserve success, not only because she works hard but because she has managed to create something that almost every woman at any age can carry. It is practical (the wallet sized fit all the essentials from lip gloss to cell phone to credit cards), usable, and has no expiration. If you can't afford the handbags you will find something you can afford, like her new chunky bangles which are lightweight and fun to flaunt. We find the direction of spending to be towards specially curated items that are not mass produced and have a story behind them. Now you know hers, and, luckily, she's played a role in helping mold ours.