Haute Secrets with Avant-Garde Designer, Allison Mitchell

Designer, Allison Mitchell
Designer, Allison Mitchell

Allison Mitchell’s fearless spirit is the DNA of her bold, avant-garde inspired designs. Launching in 2014, her handbag and accessory brand is now sold in luxury boutiques throughout the country including Stanley Korshak in Dallas and Elements in New York City.

Beginning her career in the competitive world of marketing, her agency became a resourceful leader in PR and branding. Not prepared for its rapid growth, the company’s success became its unfortunate demise when it was not able to secure additional capital to aid with expansion.

With a strong sense of creativity and passion for the arts, the stunning beauty embarked on a new journey, after she created her first handbag. Turning heads everywhere she went confirmed that she was on the right path with her newly designed accessory. Soon Dallas was taken by storm with Allison’s luxurious and chic handbags that serendipitously began as a do-it-yourself project.

Today Allison Mitchell handbags and accessories can be found spanning the globe in countries such as France, Spain, Japan and Egypt.

How did your career begin? It was a complete accident. I was bored on a Sunday afternoon and made an oversized clutch for myself out of vinyl from JoAnn Fabrics. It looked great, so I carried it to networking events and luncheons. Everyone, including buyers from some Dallas boutiques, asked me to make them one, so I decided to launch a small collection of oversized calf hair clutches, the same size as the original bag I made. Once they launched, we couldn’t keep them on the shelves. Things took off like a rocket ship!

From where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? The materials tell me what to do. I’m not an artist who thinks of things in her head and then wills them into reality – I need to see my medium, and then I know what to do.

Who is your mentor in design? I have mentors in business, but not in design. The designers who inspire me are people like Yeohlee Teng, Consuelo Castiglioni, Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, Rick Owens, Rosie Assoulin, Amy Smilovic, Pheobe Philo, anyone who is creating wear-able art.

If you were to do a collection in collaboration with another designer, who would it be? Rosie Assoulin. She has such a great eye for playful luxury, and that is an element of my aesthetic. She has the talent of taking a piece to the brink of costume, and then perfectly halting it at luxury/couture with functionality and exquisite quality.

How do you think your brand has evolved since its inception and what key element has remained consistent? What a great question! The brand itself has always been very solid, which I think is part of the reason we enjoyed success so early. I purposefully designed the brand to carry the message of chic, minimalist, luxury, quality accessories, that at the same time were raw and unapologetic. We’ve only been around for 2 years, so we are still going strong with that message and our customer. If anything, a piece that has become part of the brand is now thoughtful design – the detail and practicality of every piece is evident and puts the bags on the arms of women who don’t necessarily know or care about fashion.

How does your brand differ from other couture designers? Aside from the lower price range of a collection made from exotic skins and hides ($900 – $3000 – most luxury exotics begin at $6k), the designs of the bags are dictated by the look and feel of the material used. The bags sort of hold on to what makes the animal special, creating an aesthetic I like to call organic minimalism. There’s really nothing like it out there, and I hear that from my customers all the time. It’s my favorite compliment!

Describe your latest collection? What was the inspiration behind the collection? The Fall/Winter 2016 collection is about to be available in stores and online in August. It’s a much more sophisticated, every day collection, and the whole thing was inspired by a fabulous crocodile backstrap piece I found while sourcing in NYC. The collection itself is full of gorgeous totes and mini totes, featuring the crocodile as the shoulder strap, but uncut and un-manipulated in any way. There is a larger range of sizes in the clutches, and some new materials and shapes.

Where do you see your brand in the next decade? We are working towards global flagship stores. I would like to have ten in fashion capitals around the world. I don’t really see the brand getting into clothing or footwear, I see us staying true to luxury accessories.

Define fashion? Fashion is the conversation you have with the world around you.

What has influenced your designs the most? Probably my mother’s style. We have similar taste, but she really taught me about playful elegance. She has wonderful style and is fearless with statement pieces.

What advice would you give aspiring fashion designers? Perseverance always wins out over talent. Being told “no” by buyers, press, customers, investors, or other designers is part of the path and it’s okay to feel sad, but it is not okay to let it stop you in your tracks. No one who became a success had an easy time of it.

What is your favorite material to work with? Anything people have never heard of!

Least favorite? Glue – There are some special glues specifically for leather, but I try to manufacture my bags without using a drop!

Go to outfit for a night on the town? I wish I had a go-to outfit for anything, it would make my life a lot easier. These days, anything off-the-shoulder makes me feel a little swankier and ready for a night out.

Favorite accessory? My marigold signature calf hair clutch.

Tell us about your philanthropic work in the community? I work with the CDC (Citizens Development Center) as a volunteer. When I have time, I teach their clients about nutrition and self-awareness. The CDC is a place for adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities that provides many of them with the chance to work on the assembly lines for the surrounding industrial businesses. For the clients who are not able to work, they can spend their days socializing and going to classes or activities, like my classes.

What are signature characteristics of your design that make it recognizable to clients? The oversized aesthetic and the use of hides and skins without hardware seem to be the first things clients talk about.

Any new projects coming up in the near future? I’m participating in Fashion X Dallas and Fashion X Houston in the fall. FXD is Sept 8 – 10, and FXH is Oct 13 – 15. We are also doing an Instagram show for our fashion week presentation on September 8th, in lieu of a live show.

Allison’s Haute Secrets

Where were you born: Galveston, TX

How long have lived in Dallas: I grew up in Dallas and went to Hockaday, but moved to Chicago in 2004 for college. I moved back to Dallas in 2010 and have been here ever since.

Occupation: Owner/Designer of Allison Mitchell

Favorite Restaurant: Yutaka

Best dessert: Red bean ice cream

Best Sunday brunch: La Duni

Best place for a power business meeting: Grange Hall

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? The Joule

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Vintage Martini, Stanley Korshak, Elements

Favorite Cultural Event: Art Ball

Favorite Cultural Institution: DMA

Best Steakhouse: Pappas Bros

Best Limousine/Driving Service: Hmmm…Uber?

Best Museum/Exhibit: Nasher Sculpture Center

Describe your city in three words: Loud, proud, sophisticated

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: I always love to drive around Bluffview and Highland Park. The homes and estates are gorgeous.

All-around favorite spot in Dallas:  The bar at Hillstone

Best Aspect of Dallas: The art scene

Best Staycation Spot: Four Seasons

Allison Mitchell | SS16