Stella Kouvaris

Stella Kouvaris | Lesoleilfoundation

Stella Lastinelli - Kouvaris

Stella Kouvaris

They say a bag can reveal a lot about the true character of a woman. Imagine how many more things it can reveal about thecharacter of a woman who actually makes them! Stella Kouvariis a designer endowed with technical skills and passion; she also has a very personal perception of style, given that her handmade accessories are never part of current fashion trends yet they are considered timeless and particularly elegant.

How did you decide to start designing handbags whereas you were already involved in a different field?

The first step took place in Qatar where we maintained a decoration agency a few years ago, back in 2012. I received a meal invitation but I was not exactly sure what kind of gift I should offer to the hostess who is one of those women who have everything. Therefore, I decided I would offer something handmade, in hope that she would appreciate it and actually made a simple, black woven bag.

However, I did not have anything to use as handles, given that there are no chains in that particular market. What I did findthough was exquisite piping, so I improvised making a strap with it. Not only did she like it and appreciated the gesture but also she showed around her bag to another 40 women who were also present; she even offered me a handmade carpet before I left. Handmade articles are much appreciated in those countries,precisely because people there know exactly the effort it takes to make one; they are also familiar with such pictures –handmade carpets, etc- from their recent past.

How about the first bag?

Coming back to Greece, after two years, at a time when wovenbags were in fashion, I soon grew tired of seeing them allaround; I just wanted to do something different, involving effort and an esthetic value, at least by my standards. I began to carveleather, then applying wax and patina. It is a time-consuming process and quite risky in terms of the result, given that leather really reacts the way it wants! It is not possible to do what you want the way you would do with a fabric or any other material. Thus, only two out of five efforts were successful. Moreover, I should also point out that this type of work did not find itsaudience in Greece. People liked my bags but would not exactly dare to sport them. Instead, they were widely accepted andbought within particular social circles in Doha, to the point that people just looked at them and already knew who had created them.

There is a significant difference in that market, in the sense thatwomen there do not feel the need or have already surpassed the stage where they state their presence through expensive designer accessories; most likely because they already have those.

The first bag I carved was a face with amazing eyes, most likely influenced by the style present in Qatar. More female forms followed and so did patterns inspired by objects of the olden days, such as brooch patterns, Moroccan tiles, etc.

What were the first indications that your bags were destined to become a trend?

My bags from that time never became a fashion trend. Women sported them widely but not in Greece, for the reasons I previously explained.

And your current collection? What does it include?

I keep working with leather, following extensive research in order to find the best quality available. I do not carve itanymore, unless the circum stances are exceptional. I make my templates based on the design, storage capacity and occasion when the bag is to be used and test the anatomy of each template in practice. I love colors in general and in particular on accessories such as bags. I think that even if you wear the simplest outfit, a well-balanced accessory will pinpoint your style. That is why since winter 2019, besides all classic colors, I also work a lot with hues like electric blue, mint green, lemon yellow, warm orange, etc. Personally, wearing colors uplifts my mood, especially during wintertime. For summer, apart from theabove, I added a few extra pieces with vintage Schumacherfabrics from my personal collection. The Schumacher fabrics bear distinctive patterns with birds, Cupids and flowers.

Which are the timeless pieces that you consider ratherparticular?

Most pieces are timeless, in my opinion. The feather bag I designed where I stitched every single feather, one by one, will be used on special occasions forever. Even the small velvetclutch purses will be held forever, regardless. I believe those pieces are above fashion trends precisely because they are particular.

Your bags are both handmade and limited edition. Tell us a little bit about it.

Both the number of pieces and the design are indeed limited. Onone hand, I work with a punching tool and a needle -since I refuse to sew leather, in that case it would not be a handmade item- so it takes about 2-3 days to finish a piece; on the other hand, it is my personal need to proceed to the next stage, the next pattern, color, style etc. Of course, that does not mean that I cannot take special orders.

What aspect of your character is present in your work as well?

I think it is mainly to avoid the “look at me” attitude; apart from that, there is also an obsession with anything handmade. I could just say I am addicted to handmade!

What is “the must bag” for this summer?

I think this is a question for our talented fashion designers to answer. However, if you ask me personally what I would like to see, I would go for fabric bags with tasteful, discrete designs and colors.

What kind of bag do you normally use?

Well, at this point, let me overturn anything previouslymentioned on elegance etc.! My normal itinerary is from myworkshop to home and back, so I usually have a huge green leather bag, sufficiently spacious to bear my wallet and cosmetic products but also any punching tools, needles and pliers.

Is there a proverb you identify with?

There is no proverb really, but I could share the principles Iadmire and which I wish that one day would describe me to the utmost degree: responsibility, positivity, clarity in both mentalityand relationships as well as harmony wherever possible.

In your opinion, how will bag fashion evolve?

Well, it will always evolve even when designers are inspired by older designs. Waist bags for instance were in fashion since1940. Back then, of course, in the USA they used fabric whereas in Paris they used leather; it is true that this trend resurfaced during the past few years, bearing several elements of evolution and decorations. They remain stylish nonetheless. The same applies for oval or round bags from back then or the 16th century velvet pouches with the intricate embroideries, which nowadays are made of leather. The designs are recycled but each designer intervenes in the process, and I really appreciate that aspect. The important thing is not to copy stuff because then it is not about creation.

And at this point allow me a word of advice and prompting toward women.

I believe that the accessories we wear or hold should harmonize with our body type and style. Therefore, I wish to strongly encourage women to look at themselves from all sides before buying anything. I see petite women, who could be truly elegant,to have huge bloated bags hanging from their shoulders, resulting into deforming their silhouette. When you look at themfrom behind, their body is misaligned, their arm is almostextended trying to “embrace” the bag, and their shoulder is bent under the weight they carry. They wrong themselves on such simple things.

Stella grew up at a time when decorators used to make things with their own two hands, ranging from stained glass to copperplate etching and patinas. This is what she learned as well, thanks to her grandmother; she was originating from Asia Minor and produced works of art using anything that her hands touched! Ever since Stella was a little girl, she was always next to her and she taught her so much for her life. She really owes her.

So, origins and DNA are expressed in any way, in their everyday life. Holding close that rare and precious creative and educational asset, Stella was taught to respect any form of art and quality, wherever that could apply!

Following granny, it was her husband, a decorator by profession, one of the old-type ones as previously mentioned, endowed with a brilliant talent, which allows him to use his brain to suggest ideas and solutions to problems where anyone else just gives up.

Her life with him, their common path at their office, taught her a wealth of things, especially in terms of materials and creation. On the other hand, all these years, they were fortunate enough to design and build different projects, from hotels and mansions to yachts and private museums.

However, all those projects did not allow her to have any time to do what she wanted, from the first to the last step.

She literally needed and loved anything handmade.

Then of course, her way of thinking always brought her to ladylike and feminine stuff, with bags being the final destination to which she aid particular attention.

Nonetheless, it was difficult for her to leave their office; she will always be grateful to her husband and to her son who kept encouraging her in anything she did and were supportive of her decision to set up her own workshop.

She feels blessed to be able to do what she likes and she feels truly happy every morning when she goes back to the workshop where she can smell the leather and fill her eyes with colors.