We’re not sure what’s bolder: these one-of-a-kind handbag designs or Kelly Wynne herself. With her first storefront now open at Domain Northside, there’s no telling what ground she’ll cover next.
By Maddy Hill, Photos by Reagen Taylor
Kelly Wynne enters the room at Austin’s Hotel Van Zandt for Popsugar’s exclusive influencer event in the same manner in which she’s handled her rise to fame in the Austin design community—with a cool confidence.
Speaking engagements are only the most recent of her endeavors. The 30-year-old also just opened her first brick-and-mortar storefront at Domain Northside and is getting ready to launch her new spring collection Feb. 5.
While some little girls grow up seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and knowing they were destined for the design world, Wynne’s experience was less cut and dry. She spent her college years working in graphic design and studio art, landing a job at a boutique public-relations firm post-graduation. It was a job she credits to allowing her to get to know the world of networking, photography and logo design. Each of those skills came to play when she first launched Kelly Wynne, an up-and-coming handbag label, in 2013.
The idea of running her own business first came to Wynne after a conversation with a confidant and mentor. She was posed with a question: Where would she be on her career path if money weren’t an obstacle?
“She asked me the simplest question that led to my aha moment,” Wynne says. “I felt really comfortable with her and for the first time ever, I blurted out that I would design handbags, crazy as that sounds.”
Wynne soon realized financing her own business out of pocket would be easier said than done, and developed a business plan to show to friends and family, her initial investors. Although her first handbag sale was to her best friend, it was Wynne’s experience at her first public trunk show that made her realize she was on the right path.
“My first purchases were from family and friends, but my launch party was open to the public,” Wynne says. “It was really exciting to see people come and actually touch and feel and buy the bags. It was a really surreal moment that I’ll never forget.”
In Wynne’s world, women don’t have to choose between being feminine and powerful, between being dainty and unrefined. Her brand is undiscriminating when it comes to utility. What’s more attractive than the fabrics and colors of the statement pieces is their hardy make and functionality, making them accessories that can be used by the everywoman.
“Everything we do is all about daring our customers to step outside their comfort zone,” Wynne says. “We want to dare them to be the best they can be, dare them to be different with their style, dare them to make a statement. Our motto is ‘Dare to Wynne’ and that applies to all aspects of life. We are about empowering women beyond the product.”
That’s exactly what she’s trying to capture in her spring 2017 collection, Delighted: The Pleasure is Mine. (Think Paris in springtime bloom, sipping tea and eating pastries with girlfriends at a small cafe.) Pastels bring down the dynamic textures of her custom leather, giving the collection a softer touch than Wynne’s previous lines. The Mingle Mingle Mini, one of the most popular styles from Kelly Wynne, is seeing a small change as well. A colorful stripe down the middle of the bag is just what Wynne thinks it needs to stand out among the rest of the styles.
“I’m going for a sort of whimsical feel with pastel colors, something that is very different from my last spring collection, which was full of bright, bold colors,” Wynne says. “This collection will still be bold but will be more subtle with the coloring of the bags.”
Designing the bags is a process for Wynne, who sources the parts from throughout the U.S., and custom designs the majority of the leather. She finds solace at her family’s home in the Hill Country when it’s time to design, removing herself from the chaos of Austin to find inspiration. While Coco Chanel and Rebecca Minkoff are a few designers Wynne looks up to, the first things she learned about style came from her mother, who she describes as always having a natural sense of style.
In every little rose-gold touch and sparkly detail, Wynne’s eye for design is apparent within the four walls of her store at Domain Northside. What she once only dared to dream is now a fashion girl’s paradise, complete with hanging racks and a champagne lounge in the back.
“The design phase [of the store]was so much fun because I had always dreamed about what my store would look like. I just had no idea it could be this soon,” Wynne says. “We’d been in business for about three and a half years at that point and I thought it would be about five years before we could open a store. To see it all come to life after I’d been envisioning it for so long was something I can’t even describe.”
Looking toward the future, Wynne isn’t exactly sure where to go from here. She’s a Southern girl at heart, she says, so expansion of the brand throughout the South is at the top of her to-do list. And if the company’s growth history serves as a blueprint for the next three and a half years, the finer details should come together just as smoothly and effortlessly as her collections have thus far.