Handbag hotshot Joy Gryson is the mastermind behind the Gryson brand of luxury accessories. After a career working with industry powerhouses such as Liz Claiborne, Coach, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, Joy branched out and started her own venture in handbag design. From the effortlessly chic look of her signature Gryson line to the rock-and-roll vibe of her Olivia Harris line, Joy’s designs are a breath of fresh air. We recently had a chance to chat with her about style tips, where she finds inspiration, and how she sparkles.
Have you always loved fashion, and handbags in particular?
Yes, I have always loved fashion, for as long as I can remember. In grade school, I would look forward to the start of the school year, so I could go to A&S (Abraham & Strauss – used to be a major dept store, now long gone now) in Long Island for my back –to-school wardrobe. That was my favorite time, (not to mention that my birthday often fell on the 1st day of school).
Bags actually were not so important to me until I got into high school. In high school, it was all about the messenger bag. In college, I started to appreciate handbags like Il Bisonte, but it did not become a real passion until I got my first job in accessories.
How has your life in New York and your travels abroad, impacted your vision for Gryson, Olivia Harris and Capsule?
Growign up in New York definitely shaped a lot of my vision and how I design for all of my brands. I truly am a New Yorker in every sense of the word, and when designing, I definitely think about how I live, commute, shop, play and function in my world. That is where a lot of the practicality and urbaneness comes in! Then there is the luxeness, the sexiness, the uniqueness that comes to play. New York City has everything, so I always feel I need to do something different, look unique, but still be very wearable and desirable.
Visiting Italy more times than anywhere else in the world has definitely influenced my way of designing. I have been told by many buyers that my designs have a bit of a European flair, different from many of the US designers. I truly appreciate the understated sophistication that you find in Europe. I especially love how there is this ease of dressing, but still looking very put together.
Do you have any advice for our readers on how to let your surroundings inspire your style?
When you see someone wearing something that you may not normally wear yourself, (or how an ensemble or decor is put together) use that as a learning tool and try a similar look, but always tailor it to yourself. It can stimulate you to try something a little new!
The details and hardware on your handbags are fascinating. What’s your current favorite piece from Gryson’s spring 2012 collection?
Thank you for such a lovely compliment! I spend a lot of time on my hardware, so I really appreciate your noticing! My spiked chain is definitely my favorite new piece of hardware this season. Chain shoulder straps are always so fascinating to me, I try to find new ways to design them so that they stand apart from what is currently out in the market place. I have recently gotten very into jewelry; more so than I ever have been, so that is probably why the chain is my favorite this season!
How should the style, textures and colors of a handbag complement an outfit?
Handbags are considered an accessory for a reason, I do not think that they should ever overpower an outfit, or be the focal point; on the contrary, I think they should become one with the outfit. Not to say that it can’t be bold, crazy, or interesting, but I think it should definitely tell the same story that your clothing, makeup, and hair tell.
The color of the handbag can definitely be a place to boldly play – but the style or shape should compliment and work with the rest of the look.
I think texture is always important when it comes to everything! Materials and textures are crucial elements for me, when it comes to anything; handbags, clothing, furniture, home décor! I like the idea of having different textures juxtaposed against each other, grainy and smooth, matte and shiny, soft and hard. In many of my designs, I use mixed materials within one handbag. I think it definitely gives more dimension, interest and sophistication. When wearing a bag, it is interesting to play with different textures against your clothing.
Many of our readers dream of one day launching their own business. What are some ways to keep the entrepreneurial ambition alive?
I am very lucky to have my husband as my business partner. He has the other side of the brain, which allows me to focus on what I love most, designing. Having your own business is extremely hard. I know that for me, the business aspect of it would overwhelm my creativity. Having a partner who can focus on the business end makes all of the difference. I, like anyone else I would imagine, was unsure of my ability to design enough amazing, saleble product, that I could rely on for our future. However, without taking a risk, there will be no big reward. I would be lying if I said I was the brave one – it was my husband Peter that had all of the bravery and gumption needed to start our business. When you have your own business, you just have to remember that there is so much out of your control. So many things can and do go wrong, but if you keep an open mind, and learn how to be agile, and know that your path is not straight and narrow, then you will be okay! It is so rewarding to know that I can design the product that I want to design, be on the schedule that I want to be on – for myself and for my family – and be able to work with only people that I want to work with. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. You just have to be strong and have a great support system!
Your collections have garnered some major attention. What’s your favorite Gryson moment so far?
My favorite was being nominated by the CFDA for the Swarovski Emerging Talent Accessories Design Award, especially since I only had launched 1 -1/2 years prior. What is so amazing about it is that the CFDA members are all asked to send in their choices – not being prompted or given any direction. I, at the time was not part of the CFDA, so being nominated after only a short time was thrilling. Although I did not win, I was truly honored.
Besides the basics like a wallet and keys, what are three things a Glitter Girl should have in her purse?
1. Gum – I’m always very careful about my breath!
2. Lip balm or gloss. They make you look somewhat polished – even if you are not completely.
3. Sunglasses – when you are not feeling like you’re looking your best – I love to be able to hide behind my sunglasses, and still look chic!
How do you sparkle?
I like to think that I sparkle by being true to myself, by being kind, loving, and happy! My husband always says that he loves my laugh and smile. I try to do that as much as possible!