Interview: Mark James of Avery James Designs

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A few weeks back, we had the pleasure of featuring Avery James Designs, New York City’s promising handbags and accessories brand. Made clear through its current “Prologue” line, Avery James separates itself from common company by creating a wearable dialogue of sorts, managing to engage contemporary urban modernity with classic utilitarian design.

I recently managed to catch up with the man behind the vision, Mark James, and pick his brain as both a creative source and humanitarian. Here’s how it all went down:

Firstly, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss as a father. As a person who is also a humanitarian and a designer, how have you managed to consciously collaborate these titles in your products?

I share the loss of Avery, not in search of pity but to show people that there is a way to turn tragedy into a vehicle of inspiration for those who have had or are currently enduring a troublesome time in there lives. I am honoring my son’s name while doing something I really enjoy. I want my designs to make you, the customer, feel good. I want your purchase to impact children in need. All of those elements combined ultimately make me stronger and nurture what it is that I love to do, design. Eventually, I want the philanthropy and my story to sit in the back seat and enjoy the ride. Like anyone else that does what I do, I want the product to be respected and loved. The kids I work with can reap the benefits of the consumer world. Take Kenneth Cole, how many people walk into his stores and are aware of all the work he has put into the aids foundation, amfAR? Meanwhile, he has been doing this work since 1987 and is currently the chairman of the board.

What came first, the urge to give back or to design? 

Honestly, design came first. I think I’ve always been aware of others less fortune because I grew up around enough of it. But the ambition to really help others didn’t come until after a significant loss of my own. It’s also my motivation to be a better designer. Makes it more substantial.

How has being from NYC, one of the largest consumer cities in the world, not only fashioned your view of the debonair, but also the role in which sophisticated people play in giving back to the less fortunate?

I really don’t get tied-up in these opinions. I have, and it can lead to negativity and prejudgment of others. It’s often that people in New York especially the “debonair” or the fashion world are viewed as pretentious. And sometimes I agree. But I’ve seen people with a voice and people of money do great things. At the end of the day the world as I see it is full of rich, middle-class and poor people that have the best intentions of helping others and all three of those groups are full of pricks too.

I couldn’t help but to notice how your bags are able to evoke a sense of humanity through textures. The coupling of denim and leather reminds me of a pair of jeans matched with leather shoes or bomber jacket. Would you say that your bags are successfully able to frame the human body?

Absolutely. I may have really challenged myself though. As a new business you should really target a demographic. I have seen so many types of men and women carry the bags that I have become hesitant to put AJD in a category because I don’t want anyone to think it is not for them. At the end of the day I do have a direction of whom this is for from a consumer stand point, but really, I say roll with it. This tip is for the consumer; don’t let Avery James Designs or any other label tell you what your style is. Be an individual. If it makes you feel good, go for it.

What’s next for Avery James? Any plans on expanding the line to different products?

I can’t wait to expand. I started with a small, limited addition collection but I want to expand to more bag silhouettes, leather goods, footwear, tie bars, pocket squares, etc. even furniture. That’s why I put designs on the end of the name. Avery James Designs: travel accessories, Designs: furniture, and so on.

Will the philanthropic efforts remain a part of the line?

Yes, forever. Once I feel I did a substantial amount with the Haiti efforts I will work to expand it to other causes.

Anything else you just want to say and get out there?

Anyone carrying one of these denim/leather bags from the prologue collection, hold onto it. It’s going to be more valuable than what you paid for someday. This is something special. It will even outgrow me and leave a “footprint” in this world that will last an eternity.

If there’s ever such a thing as injecting your soul into your product and mission, it seems Mark is doing just that. Be sure to check out our assortment of Avery James products here and join the growing conversation.

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