Alexandra Collette - beautiful vintage design handbags made in Southport

The Spring/Summer 2013 range

The Spring/Summer 2013 range - Credit: Archant

A Lancashire designer takes some inspiration from the 1950s to produce quality leather handbags, writes Emma Booth

Alex Brenkley

Alex Brenkley - Credit: Archant

Alex Brenkley’s handbags wouldn’t look out of place on the dashboard of a classic 1950s Cadillac, all tail fins and expensive pink leather upholstery. So it’s no surprise to hear that Lancashire’s latest designer is inspired by some of the vintage models from that era.

The 26-year-old from Southport describes her work as ‘classic but interesting’ - that could also describe her early working life.

After Merchant Taylors’ in Crosby and King George V College in her home town of Southport, Alex headed for London where she completed a degree at the London College of Fashion.

Her education was rounded off with a two year spell in the Mulberry department of Harrods and a year in marketing and a year at Gieves and Hawkes on Savile Row. Quite a pedigree.

‘Working at Mulberry helped me to understand what people were looking for in a bag as well as the most important features, such as closures and clasps for security or the weight so that the bag is not too heavy before filling it.

‘It also helped me with my own business as it allowed me to discover for myself the most popular colours and designs.’

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The next step was setting up her own business, Alexandra Collette. ‘I wanted to be able to make my own decisions regarding the business.’

Alex uses materials and hardwear bought in London, although the leather mainly originates in Italy, and creates them at her Southport home.

‘During my year marketing on Savile Row I witnessed the great attention to detail involving the use of British products,’ she said. ‘We live in a new age where many people are shopping in places like Primark, however I do believe there is a growing interest in top quality leathers with people willing to invest more.

‘I found Gieves and Hawkes really inspiring, especially all of the workshops in the basements that you can sometimes see into from street level. I wirnessed what the tailors did and all the care that goes into their work. I was also able to have an inside look into their archive rooms filled with beautiful bespoke military pieces. That place was amazing.’

Alex’s handbag business is less than a year old, and mainly web-based ( as she develops her first collection. She exhibited at Southport Clothes Show and drew considerable interest and her next step is likely to be a selection of small leather accessories, including some pieces of jewellery. ‘That show was a real launchpad for my designs and I’m hoping to do it again. It was very exciting, after lots of hard work, to make my first few sales! My family are just really pleased I’m giving it a go.’

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