Despite all campuses being closed and industries pausing, some great things have been happening during lockdown. BA Cordwainers Accessories alum, Alexandra Klimek, becomes triple finalist and winner of Best Handbag in Overall Style and Design in the Independent Handbag Designer Awards 2020. We caught up with Alexandra to hear all about her great news and a few words of advice for those studying a physical practice during this time.
Congratulations on the award! Tell us, how did this come about? Did you apply?
Like many creatives out there, I’ve lost any work opportunities with the beginning of lockdown. Despite hard times I’ve tried to keep myself busy and creative, hence I looked for any opportunities out there. I came across the Independent Handbag Designer Awards and decided to apply. I applied for 2 categories with already existing bags (The Best in Overall Style and Design category with Cut Out Bag and The Best Handmade Handbag category with Play Bag) and for 1 sketch-based category (Suja Mini Bag category that gave me on opportunity to create the Balboa Bag).
Describe the process – what were you required to do?
After selecting two of my existing bags to enter, I developed the concept and sketh that would become the ‘Balboa Bag’. Once I had the bags to enter, I had to fill out a detailed application form on the Independent Handbag Design Awards website. This involved answering questions about the bags and their inspiration and submitting photos (and the finished sketch!) Then, all I could do was wait.
Receiving the news that I was a triple finalist in The Independent Handbag Designer Awards was a dream come true. Announcement of the finalists fall around my birthday so despite being in lockdown, far away from my family and friends, the news gave me hope for better times.
As a part of the next stage of the competition I had to create 3 introduction videos for each of the categories. Amazingly my flatmate was still speaking to me by the time we have finished shooting the videos, even though I turned his room into semi-professional recording studio for the weekend (amazing things can be achieved with towels). As a last (and definitely most difficult) step I had to develop and make the bag I’ve designed for the Suja Mini Bag category – The Balboa Bag.
Aside from winning amazing awards, what have you been up to since graduating LCF in 2016?Since graduation I have worked for companies such as Alexander McQueen, Anya Hindmarch and Mulberry as an accessories designer. I quickly realised that in order to build my own collections one day, I need to understand other stages of the value chain. And because one can only really learn about all complexities of both design and manufacturing through living through them. Hence, I decided that my subsequent move should be in the craft sector and became a Leather Modelist and Product Developer. As planned, I got exposure to production of the leather products from start to finish, which increased my knowledge of pattern making and manufacturing of bags and accessories, also introduced me to advance craft techniques and gave me an extensive commercial awareness which allowed me to incorporate into my designs. In 2020 I have started my label with bespoke leather accessories, which I design and make in a London based workshop.
How do you feel your time at LCF helped prepare you for industry?
As a BA Cordwainers Accessories student at LCF I developed a solid understanding of design knowledge and leather good production processes. I was constantly taking an opportunity to work with and in various mediums such as leather and wood without compromising my design ideas because of the fear from the unknown. However, it was only at my yearlong placement at Mulberry when I got to test these firsthand in real life. This practical knowledge proved very useful when I came back to University to develop my final year collection. I used wood and metal, with which I had no previous experience, in order to achieve the result I intended.
All of this work and the support and teaching from LCF paid off and I gained the Leathersellers’ Designer of the Year Award 2016 and first-class degree. My time at LCF will always have a special place in my heart. I’ve made lifelong friendships, understood what it means to push myself to the limits by studying and working full time and also understood the meaning of failure (and learned how to pick myself up afterwards!)
Do you have any words of advice for those approaching graduation during these times?
My advice for current student/graduates would be to never stop believing in yourself, it’s your career and life, and nobody cares about it as much as you do (and don’t let 2020 get you down)!