Paris House's accessories make statements fashion

19:34, Jul 10 2011
Sharon Paris
INDUCING SMILES: Sharon Paris with a selection of her Paris House bags and wallets at Wanda Harland in Mt Victoria in Wellington.

Sharon Paris designs and makes high-end fashion accessories that make a statement – literally.

Paris House handbags and wallets bear small quirky phrases inside and out, such as "I like to push your buttons" and "Shut up and get on with it".

Ms Paris began selling the leather accessories about five years ago and they can now be picked up in high-fashion and upmarket department stores around the world, including Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong, Liberty and Urban Outfitters in London, and Colette in Paris.

"It's kind of exciting. We feel like very very slowly we're getting to where we want to be," she says.

The wallets, which sell for $100 to $200, are made in China and the bags, costing $500 upwards, are made by a small family operation in Portugal. The company gets most of its leather from Italy and the rest from New Zealand.

Finding the right manufacturing partners has been a challenge and Paris House tried five different factories in New Zealand before settling on a Chinese firm.

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"They understand what we want. China gets a hard time for producing cheap stuff but they do good quality as well."

Paris House products are sent back to New Zealand to be checked for quality before being sent out to stockists in a custom-made box sealed with beeswax.

"The packaging is not so practical, but people love it."

Ms Paris, who studied fine art, has one other employee and contracts in extra staff such as designers as she needs them.

The designs usually come from her pen, but often need refining. Inspiration comes from movies, magazines and quotes, which she collects.

"We try and do stuff that makes people smile, and we try and keep it a little bit intelligent."

Ms Paris, who is based in Miami but typically winters in Wellington, plans to expand the company's ranges of wallets and bags but says there will be a limit to what it can produce, and hopes to do more work designing items for other companies.

"Production is hard. You have to find a factory, you have to get the raw material. It's hard to convince anybody to make something in a small run. Nobody is really interested."

She has designed a T-shirt for New Zealand fashion label World and shoes for another firm, and more recently submitted a T-shirt design to Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo that was one of seven selected from more than 5500 to be made and sold by the chain.

"It's selling well, so hopefully that will lead to more opportunities."

Ms Paris says she learnt a great deal doing the rounds at trade shows, and regularly attends trade fairs in Paris and New York.

Buyers at shows are there to do the business, she says.

"Often I know who I want and I email and send them stuff. I could be doing it for years and I'll meet them at a fair and they'll say, `This is a nice collection, I have never seen these before."'

BusinessDay.co.nz