Nora David is probably the most easy-going handbag designer you will come across. A self-professed hater of boredom and lover of life who sees things in black in white—though she admits that philosophy isn’t necessarily always good, David has fashion in her blood. Her mother Maëlle F. David is a designer, and her aunt is none other than classic beauty queen and stylist Gerthie David, who was the runner-up in the 1975 Miss Universe contest.
David is the originator of her own line of handbags Collections Xaragua. The pieces are a sensation, and the Adabelle Tote in the collection is especially creating buzz in the industry, earning David finalist standing in the “Socially Responsible” category at the 6th Annual Independent Handbag Designer Award. InStyle magazine took note and gave her a mention. The simplicity of the designs with their Caribbean flair, and gorgeous texture are among the factors that are drawing patrons to David’s designs.
Each collection caters to the different types of women in the universe. Edina is for the girl who’s an adventurer at heart; while Heloise was undoubtedly designed for the busy woman on the move, who doesn’t see packing light as an option. The professional woman has a friend in the Selma handbags, while the Rexana is for the glamour-loving woman who’s active in the nightlife.
Behind the glitz, glamour and award nominations, there’s a whole lot of work that goes in. David’s alarm wakes her up at 7:30 A.M. From there, she hops over to the gym. Then her day officially begins, with her reading and sending emails, contacting movers and shakers in the industry, performing research, budgeting, planning activities, and that’s just a start. Research is a big part of her day, of her life, but she doesn’t sit and or stand starring at the screen of a computer or wireless device. She makes in-person, competition-checking visits to stores, and most of all she studies women shoppers, passers-by and analyzes what type of handbags they tend to carry the most.
Naturally, Kreyolicious.com wanted to chat her up about Collections Xaragua. Listen in.
You must have shown some signs during your childhood to indicate that you would become the designer that you are today!
Yes, I did. At a very young age, I was designing clothes. I never thought that I would design handbags though. Then I designed one bag inspired by a skirt, and it was the kick-off.
It’s rather obvious, but we want to ask anyway: how did you settle on the name Xaragua for your collection?
I wanted a name that would pique everyone’s curiosity about Haitian history. And I also wanted a name that reflects who I am. And Xaragua was the best fit! It was one of the 5 and the most popular and strongest of the chiefdoms of Hispaniola and the chief was a woman. I intend to make of Collections Xaragua the most popular Haitian brand owned by a woman.
One of your aims with your collection is to is to create jobs for the talented Haitian craftspeople in Haiti and bring jobs to them.
Very simple. I will work day and night to take the brand to a higher level. I will make it become popular, show the local and foreign markets what we are capable of. I will not stop until I get orders so I can come back home and have as many employees it will take to produce these bags. We will make sure the bags are of excellent quality so we always keep our position in the market. This is a big task that I intend to successfully complete.
When you’re creating these pieces, when you’re coming up with then, do you find inspiration somewhere in particular?
Every season I choose a theme for my inspiration. Next collection will be Azzure. I will get my inspiration from the ocean, the sky, scenic views. I cannot wait to start!
Is the world of fashion as cutthroat as some of the reality shows make it seem out to be?
There are so many brands out there. It’s hard to enter a market even if you offer something different, innovative, with good quality. Be perseverant, take criticism in your advantage, learn from your mistakes and others’ mistakes, be informed and I believe you will be able to achieve success.
How would you describe your collection as a whole.
My inspiration is mainly the Haitian lifestyle. I get easily inspired simply by looking at people in the streets, paintings or graffiti on walls. For example I can see a shape on a painting or on a structure and adapt it to make a handbag out of it. I select the fabrics for their quality and durability. The colors are selected according to international trends, while keeping an eye on local demand. All the bags have their lining made from a fabric that plays a big part in Haitian history, siam.
To encourage the Haitian economy, I purchased the fabrics from local suppliers in Haiti. The woven straw is made by artisans in the South of the country. Once woven, the straw is treated against bugs and a varnish is applied to give it a shiny look.
You majored in Fashion Design at a Fashion Design School in Montreal. How was that?
That’s when I realized that designing just for fun doesn’t work. There are rules to follow: trends, sizes, colors, materials, shapes…My very first designs, that I thought were great, ranked a “F”. No need to tell you how insulted I was! Then I learned to follow the rules and went from “F” to “A”. Today I realized the fashion industry is as harsh as the school was…Even though I still think some of my designs didn’t deserve an “F”, I know how to adapt my style to a specific market.
Would you recommend fashion and design schools to aspiring designers?
Yes! Yes! Yes! No school can make you be a designer. I believe it’s something that comes from within. But the school can help you stay grounded and be a success. A designer is an artist and sometimes we don’t know when to stop! We create beautiful designs that are priceless. So when it comes to take your designs and make it into a business, school will show you how.
Does Ms. Nora David have a piece in her collection that she especially likes?
I love my crossbody bag! It became part of me! It’s so practical with its easy access front pocket. It also has two inside pockets to help keep your stuff organized.
Your mom is a stylist, and your dad is an architect. Do you think that’s had any bearing on your creativity as a designer?
Yes, I definitely think so. Very young I started designing dresses. At school I was also designing outfits for my friends so we could go to heaven and look different. I felt like I was imitating what my mother was doing. Her clients would always feel happy in their custom made outfits.
What advice would you give to a woman shopper who’s selecting a handbag?
When buying a handbag a woman has to know what is more important: the look of the handbag or the use of the handbag. If it’s the look, then she should go with her taste. If the use of the bag is more important she should take into consideration everything she carries in her handbag to make the choice for the perfectly-sized handbags.
You no doubt faced some hurdles over the course of your journey as a designer.
Yes, I do face some hurdles—not to say many—but they are part of life. Being aware of that, I keep my head up and always look forward. When I encounter obstacles, I choose another path. My goal has to always be stronger than any obstacles.
Collections Xaragua was recently selected as a finalist for the 6th Annual Independent Handbag Designer Award.
This is such a blessing! There is no word to describe how I feel when my work is appreciated. Collections Xaragua is competing against 4 other finalists in the category “Best Socially Responsible Handbag”. This is already a big step towards a positive image of Haiti. The competition is tight. I tried my best to meet all the international standards. I do hope to be the winner!
What’s next for you?
I strongly believe in education. I am planning to have a non-profit organization helping kids with any matter related to school. I want to provide school supplies and extra-curricular activities including involvement in the community.
My next step is to introduce the Collections Xaragua clothing line. I will be wearing one of my creations the night of the Independent Handbag Designer Award. So you will get an idea of the look Collections Xaragua will offer. Stay tuned and I hope you like it! A percentage of the profit from the clothing line will go to my organization.