When did Ilene King first debut itself to the world?
About 4 years ago I was visiting with my girlfriends in Atlanta, chatting over brick oven pizza and pitchers of sangria. At that time in my life I was dabbling in designing accessories, mainly for myself, and had brought with me a clutch and pair of earrings that I had made by hand. Both were well received and sparked an enthusiastic conversation (maybe that was just the sangria talking!) over dinner. It was shortly thereafter that I began to explore what it would take to develop a collection and have the bags produced domestically. It is wonderfully serendipitous that such a great night, surrounded by close friends, would mark the beginning of the Ilene King brand. Here’s a pic from that night at dinner. This clutch is still in the collection and is now known as the Fiera Clutch.
When did you become interested in fashion and accessories?
I remember back to when I was a child in grade school, looking at design magazines and asking to decorate the guest room of our house. I use to love walking through model homes with my family… The need to create, to design, to express myself, would eventually manifest itself into a degree in interior design. The clean lines of a unique structure are not so different than those of a unique bag. Now I am able to admire the creativity and artistry behind fashion, especially runway pieces and smaller handcrafted designer items. I’ve always shied away for mainstream, so to this day i still get excited when I stumble across a designer or small fashion brand that’s doing something truly original.
Where did you think of the name for Ilene King?
My middle name is Ilene, and its a cherished family name. I wanted the brand’s name to have a personal connection, but didn’t want to use my first name. ‘Ilene’ just sounded right, so I went with ‘Ilene King’, using my middle and last names.
Why handbags and jewelry?
Accessories are my favorite element of fashion. Among the things I appreciate most are a great bag, an oversized ring, and a big chunky necklace! These statement pieces really elevate an outfit, so if you choose good quality, unique pieces, then they last a lifetime and are always fashionable. This is exactly what I want to continue to create for our customers.
Do you have any training or fashion/design background? If so, how has it impacted your brand? If not, what is the most influential material you’ve observed that’s impacted your brand?
Studying for my degree in interior design helped me realize that I had a love for product design. Instead of spending my time on space planning and decor, like most students, I would design the individual lighting fixtures, the coffee table, dining chairs, etc. On one project, I even went so far as to design a custom toilet for the powder room because a standard one was not the right look. Not kidding…ahahaha!
Your pieces are so unique, where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from just about anywhere. My favorite things to draw inspiration from are the architectural lines of a contemporary building, the detailing of haute couture and futuristic fashion, and the raw edginess of street style. I am allergic to the ordinary, and tend to go with a ‘Pat Benatar meets Coco Chanel’ vibe…
How do you go about creating a new piece? What is the creative process like for you?
I am always looking at bags. Literally, all the time. I carry a small sketch book with me and spend a lot time fiddling with ideas, fostering some of them, while vacating others. After I cultivate a few designs that I really like, I then make full size prototypes by cutting and assembling the pieces in felt. I learned the hard way that just because it looks good in my head, or on paper, doesn’t mean it will work well in production. This gives me the opportunity I need to either toss out the idea or fine tune it. I am my most creative when i try not to be, and just let it happen organically.
What is a day in the life of Ilene King?
Wow, I don’t think there’s enough room on the page. In all seriousness, being a small brand, I tend to wear a lot of different hats. I spend time in my shop hand filing my bracelets and rings, going through leather samples for the upcoming season’s line, and mulling over my next Instagram posting. I make most of the updates on my website, arrange the photographers, the models, and the venue. I handle the logistics of getting the many different parts of each bag to NY, where they are made (what do you mean the zippers haven’t shipped yet??). It can be maddening, but I love it, so it’s worth it.
What is your favorite part about running your own fashion brand?
That’s an easy one. Seeing someone get excited over one of my items! I pour my heart and soul into every piece, so when someone appreciates my work, I feel like I have made a connection with them. I also enjoy seeing how others use Ilene King accessories to personalize an outfit. I’m always so inspired by the creativity and originality of our customers.
What would you tell a female fashion designer who is just starting out and wants to bring her ideas to life?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work and perseverance. Remember to celebrate all of the small accomplishments, even if they seem insignificant, because every step is getting you closer to your goal. Enjoy the moment, no matter how small.
I notice you hashtag many of your photos with #ilenekingbabe? Who is she?
An #ilenekingbabe is someone who expresses her individuality by dressing honestly and accessorizing with purpose. She surrounds herself with special, carefully curated pieces, because anything ordinary will not do. She’s rebellious at heart, yet conventional when necessary.
What is your vision for Ilene King?
To build an established, expressive brand. To create a platform that can one day support and provide opportunities to up and coming designers.
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