Meet Helen Barr
There’s nothing more inspiring than meeting a self-made entrepreneur, who’s built a brand from scratch. It’s amazing to see the evolution of the brand and the perfected products that come from years of iteration and hard work.
Today, we’re interviewing Helen Barr, the designer and creator of barr + barr. Helen creates thoughtfully designed bags that considers the end-users’ day-to-day needs as well as the environment. Let’s learn more about Helen and her brand!
How did you get started in bag making?
I started my business by designing private label handbags for several well-known designers and Bloomingdale’s. As my designs grew more popular, there was great interest in my own handbag designs. I was inspired then to start my own label: barr + barr.
As I carried handbags that I had designed for myself, people were often stopping me to ask where could they buy the handbag that I was carrying. That was it! I was determined to launch my own label and began to concentrate all of my work to do so. One bag at a time – literally.
We notice that you use nickel-free hardware and chrome-free leather. For us that don’t know, why is that important?
I care about our environment. Nickel-free hardware and chrome-free leather are actually mandatory in Europe. I sell worldwide and comply with global regulations. I never use PVC material (faux leather) which is terrible for our planet. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) releases damaging toxins into the environment as it decomposes. The life cycle for PVC to decompose in landfill is decades. I use natural leathers and top quality hardware for all of my handbags.
Can you tell us about your love letter inner lining? Where did that idea come from and what’s it about?
barr + barr handbags launched with white and black printed lining so that you could easily see what was in your handbag. Most handbags designed prior to my brand launch were dark colors. Dark lining makes a handbag hard to navigate. And, the lover-letter print came about because I was reading a book called, “the greatest love letter ever written”. (I was reading it to gain inspiration to write to someone that I was madly in love with at the time.)
I took out my favorite pieces of those letters and designed a collage of them for my lining print. It added a romantic touch to my handbags. The lining is cotton so you can actually wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
What are your thoughts on material:
I believe that grade A leather is a must for my handbags to look good and stay long lasting. A well-designed handbag, made in top quality leather and hardware should last twenty years or more. And, classic designs will last easily that long. I own some wonderful vintage handbags from the 1940’s and 1950’s!
There’s definitely a personality that comes with certain bag designers. Sometimes it’s the eccentric type out of NYC, who tries to push the boundaries of art and design – as almost a part of their PR strategy. What’s your take on this? And how do you see yourself in this world?
American classic design has always influenced my work. I think of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn often. Their style always looks perfect. Both of these legendary actresses wore clothes and accessories that still influence fashion today. Their fashion sense always looked beautiful, alluring and enduring. Good design should be enduring.
Do you have any customer testimonials you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve pulled some from our press kit. They read:
“I love, love, love this handbag. I am just discovering this line. I have purchased two and love them both. Great leather, great purses.”
“This handbag is deliciously decadent. The shape is perfect, the stitching perfect. STUNNING!”
“What a BEAUTIFUL, classy handbag this is. It is the perfect size … the leather is just heaven, Helen. Thanks for this lovely handbag … worth EVERY penny.”
What’s your most popular bag model?
Our Bermuda Tote is super popular. We have been selling this style for ten years. I update it a bit every season. The size is ideal for carrying lots of essentials in a bag that never looks bulky.
The leather is butter soft so it feels good when you use it. The stitching and construction is carefully reinforced so that it will hold a lot and hold up for years. This bag has value, function, easy style and is figure flattering – it meets most needs for travel or daily use.
Where can our readers, including international readers, find your bags (stores, online or offline)?
We now sell exclusively through our website. We ship worldwide.