Hands on approach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am

Lulu Guinness is certainly not a new player in the industry - she established her label in 1989 and fans include Helena Bonham-Carter, Dita von Teese and Claudia Schiffer - but 23 years later, her designs are still iconic.

'I may have gone in a few different directions over the years, but I have stayed true to the beginning,' she says. 'I thought I should do what everyone else was doing, but someone told me to stay true to myself and that everyone will come round to me.'

Like her handbags, Guinness' personal style is a breath of fresh air. 'When I created my first briefcase, people used to say to me, 'Can't you design bags more like you are?,'' she says. 'I was carrying vintage bags at the time, so that was the beginning which gave me the confidence.'

As a teenager, Guinness lived abroad and frequented cities like Paris. She studied graphic design, but decided to launch her own line featuring the aforementioned briefcase in the late 1980s.

'The idea behind it was similar to the Filofax - it separated everything into different compartments, from your Walkman to Ray Ban's,' she says. 'What it also had, which I still do now, was a surprise inside. You opened it and you'd see a bright red or purple suede lining. I wanted women to know that it was beautiful inside.'

The briefcase became popular overnight and was picked up by stores such as Browns, which encouraged Guinness to create colourful, cheerful variations that immediately generated buzz. And as her designs landed in the pages of magazines such as Vogue and Elle, she started to open stores as far afield as Tokyo and New York.

Perhaps the most famous of her collections is her Lips line, which she created in 2004. It's still her most photographed style to date. 'I did a surrealism collection based on Dali and that's where the lips came in,' she says. 'I always wear red lipstick - it's my signature look.'

Her Spring-Summer 2012 collection is called Bric-a-Brac, and is inspired by antique markets in Portobello Road. Oversized clutches come with stripes or in snakeskin with lip closures, while lady-like purses reference the 1950s. More fun offerings including the iconic Doll Face bag, which will appeal to customers looking for something unique.

Guinness is also working on several new projects, including her first luggage collection, which launches in stores this month and features spinner cases decorated with her iconic lip designs. A collection of tees with Japanese brand Uniqlo launches next month, while a watch collection is currently in the works for autumn.

But possibly her most exciting future prospects are her plans to expand into Asia. 'Hong Kong will be first then China, because people still look to Hong Kong for what's hip,' says Guinness. 'What I have here now is people wanting to get their hands on my bags, but they can't. It's fun being part of the chase.'