If it weren’t for happenstance, Kasia Dietz may have never left New York behind to fulfill her dreams in Paris.
You can’t live in a one place your entire life and expect to gain anything valuable enough to incorporate it into what you’re passionate about. Traveling awakens the soul. It broadens your perspective on the world around you. The culture, the tastes, smells, the diverse groups of people, landscapes, and the beauty of the adventurous unknown–for a designer, travelling is essential.
And for this talented artist, it was what led her away from her hometown and into the the arms of La Ville-Lumière.
Born in Southampton to a Polish artist mother an an American writer father, Dietz first became enamored with Paris while studying abroad for a semester in London, returning as often as she could. Despite being creative since childhood, it took her many years to listen to her creative soul.
After graduating, she moved to New York City. It wasn’t until 12 years later, when she “met a handsome Italian on the street (Prince street to be exact), that my dream became realized,” explained Dietz. Soon after her happenstance meeting, she had a compelling enough reason to relocate, so she moved to Paris with her love of fashion, art and design and began her handbag business, Kasia Dietz handbags.
Of course, the good croissants, gorgeous landscapes and architecture, the rich history, sensibility and sense of culture also played a hand in her move, too.
Her experiences are prevalent in her creations. Bold bright colors and fantastic symmetrical patterns are interwoven with her love of travel, art, nature, as well as the inspiration derived from her mother’s prints designed in the 70’s. The bags are also reversible, which makes them the ideal versatile accessory for every fashionista on the go.
We wanted to find out more about about her work, process and inspirations, so we invited her to take part in a Q&A session.
KW: What is your most relevant childhood memory of when you first found an interest in fashion and design?
Kasia Dietz: The daughter of an interior designer, I grew up around textiles. Since I was a child I would spend hours playing with my mom’s fabrics, creating patterns and making clothes for my dolls as well as for myself. I remember so well the feeling of creating something of my own and wearing it with pride! It was many years later, when I dusted off my mom’s wooden prints that she had used for t-shirts, that I created the idea of wearable art in the form of bags.
KW: Before you began creating your lovely purses and handbags, can you tell me a little bit about your pursuits?
My creative and business background led me to pursue an advertising career as a Print Producer in NYC. In over a decade, I worked with many talented photographers and illustrators, learning much about the world of commercial art, as well as developing an eye for composition. This fueled my love for photography and drawing, both of which I pursue as hobbies. I’ve also always loved to write, and started a blog when I arrived to Paris. Whenever possible, I also write for select publications and plan one day to write a book.
KW: How do you think living in Paris has shaped your business? What about your lifestyle?
Aside from making me stronger and more resilient, Paris has taught me a lot about doing business in Europe, where quality trumps quantity. The French are much less prone to buy from a lesser known designer than Americans are, posing a challenge when trying to build a brand in a country dominated by big names. Slowly I’m building trust with French consumers while doing much of my business internationally. As for my lifestyle, I’ve learned to slow down and take time to appreciate the simple pleasures.
KW: Were you faced with any struggles during your company’s start-up?
Simply finding a manufacturer was one of my greatest initial challenges. I barely had any contacts in Paris and spoke little French. Determined, I bought a sewing machine, got to work on my samples and asked anyone I could for local production leads. One of my fabric supplies provided the name of a manufacturer, et voilà! I’ve been working with him, producing locally in Paris, ever since.
KW: Where are some of your favorite places to visit and what about these travels have been incorporated into your designs?
There are many places that I became enchanted with during my year long travels in 2007, namely Vietnam, Laos, India and Bali. And many more that I explored since moving to Paris, including Istanbul, the setting for my most recent clutch collection. I try to incorporate the essence of a city or country into wearable art, as I did with the Italian Riviera, which has become a second home. Every journey, even to a nearby village, has the potential to inspire.
KW: When you’re not busy designing, how do you go about your days in the city?
Art being one of my passions (and what often inspires me in my designing), I often carouse the local Marais galleries and can easily spend hours lost in the permanent collections of the Pompidou or Musee d’Orsay. Also, there’s never too much time for catching up with friends over a café creme or glass of wine. And then there’s (window) shopping.
KW: Who are some of your personal favorite designers?
I’m a great fan of Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel for their timeless elegance. I enjoy Balenciaga and Proenza Schouler for their fashion forward style.
KW: Do you listen to any music while brainstorming ideas? Any favorite artists in general?
I often listen to pop station Nova while working, otherwise I opt for a selection of lounge or classical music, depending on the mood.
KW: What do you have in store for Kasia Dietz handbags in 2014?
I’m continuing to expand the selection and distribution of my eco-chic bag collections, as they make their way around the world. I’m also working on a higher end ‘Resort’ collection and who knows, maybe something for les hommes?