Launched last year, Julia Gabriel creates bags, all handmade—from beginning to end—in Houston, Texas. Under the name Julia Gabriel Studio, the brand came to be after she finished college (where she studied fine art) and was exploring ways to blend her artistic side with her entrepreneurial spirit. The result is bold, architecturally minded shoulder bags, duffles, clutches and more—sometimes unexpected, and always eye-catching.
“I’ve been making bags for friends since middle school, but everything changed when I bought my industrial sewing machine,” Gabriel tells CH. “Working with leather was now an option and a whole new skill to learn. Suddenly, the geometric and architectural shapes I had been using in my art came together seamlessly (excuse the pun) in bag form and I immediately saw the potential for a brand.”
Impressively, Gabriel is a “one woman production line” meaning she is in charge of every detail and stitch, ensuring the quality and style remains very much Julia Gabriel Studio. Of her process, she says, “It starts with dying the canvas in a big pot in my bathtub. I cram as much canvas in there as possible which creates creases and folds that absorb the dye in different ways. This makes for a more textured and irregular color and therefore each bag is slightly unique. I rarely make one bag at a time so the next step is cutting all the canvas and leather I need, then I treat the leather to slow the aging process slightly, and then the sewing begins. My design process is a little more fluid because I don’t really sketch much. I just make a ton of little prototypes (they’re all hiding in my closet) and play with them until I’m satisfied with the balance of aesthetics and function.”
Despite the home-studio and bathtub-dying process, the bags looks anything but DIY—they are crisp, sophisticated and entirely striking. And, for the F/W 2015 collection—called the Circular Series—Gabriel has ventured into attention-grabbing territory with more playful and daring colorways. “I was using mostly black and tan in previous seasons and decided to let loose for F/W ’15—and I’m so glad I did. This is my third collection and the first one that I feel is fully me as a designer. I wanted colors for fall 2015 that could pop against a black coat but also pair subtly with a camel sweater. This collection can be worn several ways because of its ability to act as an accent or as an odd neutral,” she says.
While her previous collections have been more rigid and geometric, the aptly named Circular Series introduces a new shape to Gabriel’s wheelhouse—while remaining structured and sturdy, the curves of this range are an appealing touch. This season, Gabriel says, her designs are “more in line with the natural curves and shapes of the human body. The Cylinder Crossbody, for example, has natural vegetable-tanned leather on each end to hold the form of the bag, but when using it, the fabric body molds to the side of your hip. It was something I didn’t realize would happen until I made the prototype and it makes the bag very comfortable to wear.”
The Circular Series is currently available at Julia Gabriel Studio’s online store, along with her previous collections, with prices starting at $64.
Images courtesy of Joshua Anderson and Julia Gabriel Studio