the story behind
This season we introduce Wandler at Pauw - a luxury brand specialising in leather bags and accessories with a distinctive aesthetic. To share the story behind the brand, we interviewed Elza Wandler, founder and designer.
What was the initial idea behind Wandler? How did it all begin in 2017?
I felt there were not a lot of brands out there that offered bags and shoes with a fine balance of clean yet bold designs. I always knew I wanted to do something for myself, to create my own world. After gaining plenty of experience in understanding the beginning to the end of product design, I felt that I was ready to design under my own name. It is all about timing and blending the right things together at the right time. It started to become reality when I met Bart Ramakers, my sales agent, at a friend’s dinner. I was talking about an idea I had for a handbag line and he said: ‘Can you have a collection sketched in three days?’ We launched the brand a month later.
How would you describe the aesthetic identity of Wandler?
Clear in function and shape, WANDLER shows a distinctive aesthetic: elegant with unexpected dimensions and a dynamic use of colors. Embodying modern femininity, the designs are created to compliment a woman’s look, combining functional relevance with elegance. Playing with the balance of bold expressive colors versus soft hues, each bag has its own sense of contemporary femininity.
How did you get into the world of fashion? Is it something you were always interested in?
This has been a dream of mine since I was a child. I can remember when I was 9 years old, my sister and I played having ‘our own design agency’. I made collages, with images I cut out from magazines. My mother kept everything.
Years later I enrolled into the Fashion and Branding course at Amsterdam Fashion Institute in 2009, which gave Wandler a solid foundation in finding the right balance between creative design and commerce. There I learned that the business does not stop after you make a product. There is a lot that comes with it like branding, image-making and social media. After completing my Bachelor’s degree in 2012, I took a job as designer for Levi’s premium Made and Crafted women’s line. I learned how the merchandising, design and sales teams worked closely together. It was great for researching materials and manufacturers, so when I started Wandler I was fully prepared to start the brand.
“Funny enough I have never owned a designer bag. When I was younger I always said that I would make my own fashion bag. It took a bit of time, but I got my collection of fashion bags now. ”
What was the first designer bag you bought?
Funny enough I have never owned a designer bag. When I was younger I always said that I would make my own fashion bag. It took a bit of time, but I got my collection of fashion bags now.
How does a day at the Wandler atelier look like?
Every day is different, so I will keep this one short and sweet: never a dull moment.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
To make designs coming from my own little world that women can appreciate and love to wear. To have women choose Wandler bags and shoes for that something new to add a little statement to their everyday dressing is super rewarding.
What does Wandler contribute to sustainability?
While we put a strong focus on making beautiful high quality designs, as a company and as individuals, we are also mindful of the effect that we have on our environment and natural resources. We make a conscious effort to steadily work towards reducing the footprint we leave behind. We use hides deriving from the food industry as a by-product of diary and meat industries only. Our leather is of Italian and French origin and never exotic ones. It complies with EU regulations, meeting the strict environmental guidelines of the industry for every aspect of the production process. We closely work with our partners; Italian tanneries and people we trust professionally and ethically who share our concern for the humane treatment of animals.
All leather comes from Italian cows that are bred under the EU norm. On some styles, we have used vegetable tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather is the eco-friendliest way of tanning as no chemicals are used in the tanning process.
“While we put a strong focus on making beautiful high quality designs, as a company and and as individuals, we are also mindful of the effect that we have on our environment and natural resources. We make a conscious effect to steadily work towards reducing the footrpint we leave behind.”
Who is your ultimate style icon of all time?
There are so many interesting women, but to name one, I will go for Diana Vreeland. I would love to be that woman for one day since she made herself as interesting and as fabulous as she wanted to be. 'Boring' did not exist in her world. For our shoe campaigns we include women who I think are amazing in their own way and have that modern femininity which is apparent in Wandler’s silhouettes. So to name a few more: fashion director Georgia Tal, digital talent Linda Tol, fashion director Jane McFarland, designer Sabine Marcelis and digital influencer Chloé de Saison.
How do you want women to feel when they wear Wandler?
Beautiful and confident. And everything in between.
“It is the best rollarcoaster ride of my life. It is a super exciting yet scary one at the same time as everything goes superfast. You have to stay relevant, know what is up next while you just started working on your new collection.”
What is your greatest accomplishment with Wandler?
Everything so far. We sometimes forget it has not even been two years ago when we started. Being able to grow, maintaining that and being where we are at now. Having an amazing roster of about 155 of the best stores worldwide. Getting to work with and to meet super talented, ambitious, inspiring people. Having the teams of Bella and Gigi Hadid, Beyoncé, Celine Dion and Lady Gaga call in your designs. We launched late 2017. Going into our second full year, 2019 has been exciting with the launch of our shoe category. The feedback has been super positive. Adding footwear to our offering has created lots of excitement. It has helped solidify our presence at current stockists and sustainably scaling our wholesale accounts globally, which is a key priority.
What did you recently learn from having your own business?
Wandler is growing and our team is getting bigger. Running a business comes with great responsibilities. It is not only designing anymore. I would like to remain involved in every aspect of the business. Perhaps some parts less than others, but I love every part of it. It is a lot. Surreal. Like a dream. Insane. Best rollercoaster ride of my life. It is a super exciting yet scary one at the same time as everything goes superfast. You have to stay relevant, know what is up next while you just started working on your new collection. Because of Instagram, news travels so fast. I think this is amazing, because you feel like you are working on a high non-stop. But it is also challenging and makes me worry. However, when I feel that, I remind myself of what my father always use to tell me:
‘All we have is now. The past has been and the future are just thoughts’. He is a mindful coach. That makes me calm and less stressed. I basically learn every day and I am enjoying each moment of it.
Any future plans you would like to share with us?
Just stay tuned to find out.
Discover our carefully selected styles from the Wandler collection here.