Often times, the best opportunities arise when you least expect it. For some, the door will close never to open again, and for others, when opportunity arrives they fearlessly walk right in. For Dallas handbag designer Allison Mitchell, a simple DIY creation has now evolved as the prototype for her signature collection — uniquely crafted animal skin and hide clutches that are coveted by many and the ultimate must-have staple for her namesake brand.
We spotted the talented designer while perusing accessory finds at Fashion X Dallas. Immediately catching our eye, Mitchell’s oversized clutches in merlot and marigold were more than just bold statement bags, they were mesmerizing. We caught up for coffee and chats with the emerging designer just shortly after her stint at the 3-day extravaganza. After a mocha latte or two, it was crystal clear that Allison Mitchell has the “it” factor. With a go get ’em personality and a knack for the finer things, we were eager to learn more about the brains and beauty behind Dallas’ newest designer brand.
With a résumé that’s not only impressive but delightfully entertaining, we dove head first into exploring the woman that unconventionally designed one of Dallas’ must-have bags for the season. From clientele spanning across the United States and into the depths of France and Spain, read more for the scoop on our newest designer discovery.
DFW Style Daily: Your journey into fashion is inspiring yet unconventional, with a résumé that truly highlights your creativity. Tell us a little bit about your “prior life” in the culinary arts.
Allison Mitchell: “I went to culinary school and I used to work for Iron Chef’s Masaharu Morimoto’s restaurant in Napa. I was [assigned] this particular station that produced little appetizers…called takoyaki, which is a Japanese street food. Nobody could make them but me. I was born to make takoyaki! They made me make them every night.”
Just as entertaining is your entrance into fashion. How did you stumble upon this newest venture and what was the catalyst behind your first handbag design?
“For the original bag I thought, ‘You know what would really make my world complete? It would be to have an oversized fold-over clutch bag with no hardware — just made out of ostrich and something cool.’ I couldn’t locate this [clutch] anywhere and I certainly didn’t have the money to buy it, so I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and found something that looked real and made it myself. It was faux ostrich vinyl in a cognac color. I carried it everywhere and people continuously asked me where I got it.”
Now that you have officially hit “the scene”, do you feel any pressure to keep creating something new and fresh?
“Part of the pressure is that you have to create something people will love…and to create again and again and again. I’m way behind though. [Designers] are creating for 2016 already and my spring collection won’t be ready until January.”
Tell us about your upcoming collection. What can we expect?
“I do have a spring collection coming out that’s different with different styles of handbags and not just clutches. For instance, the tote is being made with black cowhide leather (not hair on hide) and on the underside it’s dyed in chartreuse. It’s sort of rocker with finesse. Once you open the bag, there will be silk kimono lining.”
Silk kimono lining sounds amazing! What sparked the fusion of kimonos with your spring collection?
“Originally I wanted to do something that was kimono-ish by using a bolt of fabric and a pattern that was silky. I wanted the lining to be a surprise when you open [the bag]. I was looking at our Instagram account one day and saw that an authentic wholesale Japanese antique kimono account was following me. I researched further and it was my friend that I knew from Hockaday who now lives in Nagoya, Japan…so I contacted her and she sent me my first shipment the other day.”
With such an immediate burst of success, how do you stay grounded?
“I think part of the trick is when things don’t go as planned, don’t get too worked up about it. Certainly things have not worked out for me all of the time. When we had to make 60 bags in seven different colors in two weeks for Fashion X Dallas, I told my manufacturer ‘I will bring wine. We will do this all week…whatever it takes, I’ll do it.’”
So what’s next for the Allison Mitchell brand?
“I’d like to start branching out of Dallas for trunk shows. Selling to boutiques and buyers is a really traditional route to go. I want to go the non-traditional way. The way to do that is to do trunk shows, pop-up shops, whatever it takes. I really want to hit Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Once I have taken Texas, I really want to start branching out into the U.S. and then overseas.”
Will Dallas always be home base or will you eventually relocate to continue operations elsewhere as it grows?
“Even if this bag stuff really goes crazy, and I should be living in New York or London or wherever – I would just want to stay in Dallas because we have a lot of great opportunities here and great people. I feel like we’re coming into our own a little bit here in the city.”
Images via Allison Mitchell.