It was a discussion with friends seven years ago that initially sparked Rebecca Maguire’s desire to create her own line of handbags. The gist of that conversation: how there weren’t enough practical yet stylish handbag options available in New Zealand, and how that needed to be remedied.
It wasn’t until Maguire went on maternity leave four years later with her first child, Harry, that she was finally able to start working on that solution, and when she discovered the practical foundation on which to build her designs.
“Basically, what it comes down to for me, is having a really stylish looking bag that you can fit nappies in,” Maguire says.
“Being at that stage in my life, it’s about size, having strap options and being able to wear hands free, pretty much.”
Where most mothers try and steal a few minutes of relaxation between breastfeeding and changing nappies, Maguire works on Harry & Co, where she’s a one man-band in charge of design, sales, distribution, production and research.
“I find myself sitting up in bed at all hours of the night, looking at the internet and sketching down little ideas. I just get five minutes here and there, it’s a real juggling act.”
The philosophy for the range is simple: creating luxurious yet practical bags that hit that sweet price spot between high-end and cheap.
“I really put a lot of time into sourcing quality raw materials, so the end result is a luxury handbag, but keeping it accessible in the sense that the price point isn’t too crazy.
“It’s still an investment for people, but it’s attainable.”
To achieve this, Maguire sources leather from an in-demand supplier (also used by the likes of Prada and MaxMara) based just outside of Timaru in the South Island, and outsources production to a sample room-sized factory in China.
“The sample makers take it right from step one to the final step, so the bags aren’t just going through a production line. So it’s handmade and the craftsmanship is amazing.”
Maguire also hand picks and imports the hardware for the bags from America, as another way to stay in control of the quality.
“China’s machinery is incredible, so as long as you’re supplying really high-quality raw materials, and they’re doing the construction, then you’ve got a much better handle on it.”
Just because some of the range was designed with nappies in mind, that’s not to say Harry & Co bags are exclusively the domain of mothers.
“I’ve tried to think about the different scenarios people would need a bag, like The Weekender, or there’s a style called I Mean Business, which fits your laptop or iPad or documents.
“So I’ve considered a scenario for each style, and tried to make it as practical and functional as possible.”
Harry & Co is stocked in 12 stores nationwide, including Black Box in Auckland and Infinite Definite in Christchurch, and also has an online store.