A New York native, Yale graduate, attorney, and avid traveller – Ella embraced her passion for design and cultivated her skills at The Fashion Institute of Technology and as an intern with renowned leather goods company, Mark Cross. Her Fall 2016 handbag collection debuted at the Bibhu Mohapatra show during NYFW. Ella designs her collection with the hope that women find it a satisfying marriage of unusual beauty, sensual textures and great functionality.
We caught up with Ella for a little insight + inspiration…
Inviting Arkansas: What inspired you to leave your former career as an attorney to pursue handbag design?
Ella McHugh: I’ve always had a passion for handbags. While my corporate career was rewarding, there came a moment when I realized there was no time like the present to pursue my passion. I took courses at The Fashion Institute of Technology and was lucky to intern at Mark Cross before setting out on my own.
IA: How does your family influence your designs?
EM: My lifelong love affair with handbags was originally inspired by my grandmother. An opera singer and surgeon, she was always impeccably dressed and had a handbag for every occasion, often changing up to five times a day! My mother, an antiques dealer, has exquisite taste. She inherited her mother’s love for accessories and passed it on to me.
IA: What is your design process for new creations?
EM: Typically, I begin with the silhouette. Every silhouette in my collection is named after an influential woman in my life, including my mother Elizabeth, good friend Lauren and mentor Patti. Next, I source European leathers and exotic skins with an eye toward creating unexpected combinations of materials, colors and textures, which best suit each silhouette. The semi-precious stones are the final touch.
IA: How do you find the artisans who help craft the handbags?
EM: When I launched my business, I spent a long time researching the best craftsmen in Italy. In that process, I discovered the third generation artisans I still work with today.
IA: What are your handbag essentials?
EM: Always a phone, lipstick, keys – and my beauty essential – gold eye shadow!
IA: Do you have a philosophy to live by?
EM: Work hard, be kind and accessorize.
IA: Do you have a fashion mantra?
EM: There is a handbag for every occasion and an occasion for every handbag!