Crystal Haylett, designer and founder of Elly Clay, philosophy was to create handbags that are edgy, but elegant. With the perfect mix of urban street style, and uptown chic she created handbags that are both functional and beautiful. Some of hollywood’s leading ladies such as Taraji P. Henson, AnnaLynne McCord, and Hilary Duff have been spotted carrying Elly Clay handbags. Ladies if you love rocker chic design aesthetic then you will want to purchase an Elly Clay handbag. Crystal took time out to answer questions for the Style Incorporated readers. Enjoy!
Who is Crystal Haylett?
Crystal Haylett: Busy Mom of twins, who is committed to staying fashionable and functional at all times!
When did you know that you wanted to become a handbag designer?
Crystal Haylett: I knew I wanted to design bags since I was 10, but it was just a whimsical thought. I would always picture what a bag could use to make it extra special. I started to sketch my ideas as a hobby and it finally grew into an obsession and that is how the Elly Clay Collection was born.
What was the very first thing you designed professionally/ personally?
Crystal Haylett: In 9th grade, I designed my first pair of pants and matching top. Professionally, the Botas studded hobo was the first bag from our debut collection.
Describe your personal style.
Crystal Haylett: My style is ever-changing, but I always like to wear one statement piece with every outfit. It could be my bag, shoes, jewelry or one particular piece of clothing. I love to mix vintage pieces with high-end pieces. I love to look unique, but never contrived or over the top.
Who are the people behind Elly Clay?
Crystal Haylett: We have a great team of ladies behind Elly Clay, Our staff is located on the both the east and West coasts. Which helps bring the design esthetic together from around the country. We collaborate on all ideas and concepts to make the design and branding process a group effort!
Amanda McCombs, Product/Brand Director on West Coast, RasShahn Baker, Senior Marketing/PR Director (East Coast), Stacey Giambastiani, Sourcing &Creative Development (East Coast), Kelsey Kaufman, Social Media Manager (West Coast), Crystal Haylett, CEO/designer (East Coast)
How did it start?
Crystal Haylett: We designed our first collection in 2009. The Collection was born out of the need to find great quality bags at moderate pricing. The established designers have great product, but became unaffordable. So we set out to give the same high street style and taste level at lower price points.
From where do you draw your inspiration for your collections?
Crystal Haylett: My inspiration for the current collection came from many experiences. I travel a lot, and every place I visit gives me some type of inspiration for my designs. The culture, architecture and nightlife all excite me and inspire my designs. The women in Europe inspired this particular collection. I really wanted the handbags to make a statement without being overstated or having too much bling. Timeless style, great shapes, bold and unique detailing, and excellent quality.
Tell us about your design process.
Crystal Haylett: We start with our concept, storyboards and sketches. We then develop prototypes and test for functionality, choose colors and materials and bring our products and ideas to you.
What set’s Elly Clay apart from its competition?
Crystal Haylett: We created a line for what I wanted to wear — and what I saw there was a lack of in the market — in terms of luxury fabrications, design and function at an affordable price.
What would you say is your trademark?
Crystal Haylett: Our Billie Jean clutches in Metal Mesh and Leopard
How would you describe the Elly Clay customer?
Crystal Haylett: The Elly Clay customer is a modern, unconventional girl who pairs her new-modern pieces with vintage, and knows that her look isn’t complete until she adds timeless accessories, which show personality.
Our customer is not afraid to try new things. She’s a playgirl, a mom, an artist, businesswomen and a free spirit when it comes to her personal style.
How often do Elly Clay handbags come out?
Crystal Haylett: Fall and Spring, twice yearly
What’s your best seller right now?
Crystal Haylett: Our Billie jean Clutches, in Leopard and metal mesh and our Boyfriend Hobo in washed lambskin
So far, what are your favorite pieces?
Crystal Haylett: The Botas Studded Hobo and the Boyfriend Spike studded hobo. These slouchy hobos are roomy and super cute. The Botas has double main compartments and looks great with everything. Celebrities seem to be gravitation toward this style, as well. The Boyfriend hobo is super rocker chic and gives edge to any outfit.
What is your definition of a great handbag?
Crystal Haylett: Great functionality is the biggest handbag DO. I always pay attention to functional details such as the size and position of the pockets or handle length. For example, the handles on a tote or satchel should be designed to be comfortably used on the shoulder whether you are wearing a t-shirt of a winter coat; my evening bags can actually fit a phone, keys, and wallet.
Also a great handbag moves seamlessly from day to evening and can be worn with multiple wardrobe changes and a variety of styles.
You should treat your purse like a good pair of shoes; polish and clean it once in a while. If it breaks or frays, get it repaired! And it should last you long time.
Do you have a celebrity following?
Crystal Haylett: Our celebrity following is growing daily. We currently have “Dancing with the Stars’” Karina Smirnoff, Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, “90210″ actress AnnaLynne McCord, Haylie, Hilary Duff, Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson, to name a few.
Who are some other designers that you admire?
Crystal Haylett: Chanel. Dolce & Gabbana
What are your plans for Elly Clay in the future?
Crystal Haylett: We plan on expanding into shoes in Spring 2012. We are really excited to shoes to pair with our bags!
Do you have any advice for aspiring handbag designers?
Crystal Haylett: Have Faith! And study the market, trends and be willing to help others that come along. It is important to remember all of us had someone lend a helping hand along the way, so give back. So many designers are into being completive and catty. Fashion should be about making things to make us feel good about ourselves and what we are wearing.
Movies: Road to Perdition, Devil Wears Prada, True Romance, and The Prestige with
Animals: Don’t have any pets
Pastime or hobby: Spending time with Family, Shopping, Walking
TV shows: Housewives, Glee, Idol, and MSNBC
Vacation spots: Any Caribbean or tropical spot
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