Brett Heyman of Edie Parker: The Box Clutch that Roared

Attending FGI’s latest NextGen event at FGI headquarters in Bryant Park — a talk by Brett Heyman, founder and director of Edie Parker — furthered my belief in my long held theory for success in the fashion biz (or any biz, really). If you have the right product at the right time with the right industry contacts, the sky’s the limit! Heyman, an FGI Rising Stars Award recipient in 2016, is one of those “momtrepreneurs” — the company is named for her eldest child and only daughter who shares it with other cool Edies such as Bouvier Beale and Sedgewick.

Brett Heyman
Photo courtesy FGI

Heyman paid her dues rising through the ranks of accessories PR at Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, to start her own company of luxe acrylic, often personalized, box clutches found on red carpets everywhere. In person she represents a perfect synthesis of East and West Coast (born in New York, raised in Cali, moved back to New York), her aesthetic is both sophisticate and Bohemian wearing an olive green t-shirt with a “no bra bra,” black slouchy leather sarong skirt, and black ankle strap ballet flats.

Edie Parker boutique on Madison Avenue
Photo: Courtesy of  Edie Parker

A collector of the 1950’s and 60’s versions of these bags for years, Heyman noted that with the advent of eBay, “they became increasingly hard to find.” She thought she’d try making her own. “Plastics were very important in this time period,” (giving me flashbacks to the infamous line about plastics being the future in “The Graduate”). Heyman thought she’d pay homage by manufacturing in the U.S. but it was “impossible to find a factory that would make the plastic” although she finally did find one in New Jersey. “The plastic is poured from flat sheets, cut out and put together like puzzles,” she explained.

Jean Fruit Cocktail bag
Photo: Courtesy of Edie Parker

The Bespoke (or personalization) line came about in 2011 when “a friend who’s a bit of a narcissist” celebrated her 40th birthday, and was appropriately gifted  with a bag emblazoned with her name on it in confetti glitter. The bags made the rounds of influencers where they were met with varying responses. “At Bergdorf’s, the buyer thought it was so weird!” recalls Heyman. Barneys was the first to pick up the line — bags can now be found at Saks, Net-A-Porter, at the new Edie Parker Flagship on Madison Avenue, and yes, at Bergdorf’s. The online website is the home of the personalized where you can play with (and see in advance) what your name (or initials) will look like in different colors and fonts. These bags do not come cheap however — hovering close to $1,800. Interestingly, bags that read Kale or Weed are also popular so no worries if you don’t want to advertise your moniker. On the other hand, no one will steal your bag unless you should happen to share a name. LOL

Kate Hudson at Met Gala 2011 with Edie Parker Bag
Photo: Getty Images

Other types of bags include those with inlaid designs (for instance fruit). The company is branching out to include other styles besides the box clutch which incorporate plastic disc accents in suede, leather and fur. The company has also spread its wings “organically” to acrylic decorative boxes, trays and other home wares, as seen in their “jewel box store.” As far as how these bags became so ubiquitous, Heyman spoke about having “a lot of great relationships with stylists and editors,” which helped her place a bag with Kate Hudson on the red carpet at the 2011 Met Gala, thus giving “legitimacy and stores respond to it.” Speaking of editorial relationships — “When I got a piece in Vogue, I thought I could retire but the phone never rang. We were in US Weekly and that did it.” By the way, “Influencers are more demanding than celebrities”.

Edie Parker Personalized Clutches
Photo: Courtesy Edie Parker

During the Q&A on comparisons to Judith Leiber:  “We are selling to Judith Leiber’s granddaughters.” “We adjust our size to each new iPhone,” “Our bags can be worn with a fabulous evening gown or with jeans.”

On justifying the expenditure of the Madison Avenue store — “We have been profitable since our inception. We have no private equity money to turn” (she used her savings and funds from friends and relatives to start her company). “We signed a short term lease for much under market value.” “You can’t deny the power of Madison Avenue and of Brick and Mortar. We have a windows budget like the movie “Mannequin. I love the sense of discovery — people want to know why there’s a huge clam opening and closing with a bag in the middle.”

On product expansion — “We’re planning to do jewelry, small leather goods, and see what works. Stick to what you’re good at — don’t begin with a lifestyle brand. We’ll probably do eyewear in a few years.” On how she knew her idea was a good one — “It was a well thought out assumption. Luxury brands didn’t do a fun clutch.”

On success and the “It” bag phenomenon — “It’s great to have momentum but you don’t want to be the shiniest bag on the hill because what goes up…” “Mansur Gavriel is a good example of holding back and not flooding the market.” On her website where 20% of bags are purchased with personalization — “You can make a sample bag — you can play in it all day. It’s a real time suck.”

Was there a definitive moment when she decided to make the leap?  Her psychic Jeffrey said she’d have her own business. Lastly her quip on the idea that having a favorite bag is like having a favorite child — “I totally have a favorite child but not a favorite bag.”

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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