Tonya Hawkes – sculptural, luxury handbags

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Welcome back to Tonya Hawkes on my blog. Her brand was featured several years ago but now we would like to know all the latest news so let’s start the Q&A with Tonya.

Q.: How and when did you start being interested in fashion?
A.: My mom was a professional model for over 15 years where she modeled for several fashion brands in the historical Seattle Mart, on the waterfront downtown Seattle, Washington. Her career began before I was born and modeled unti I was 12 years old and on a few occasions involved me and my younger brother to model children’s clothes for runway modeling shows. She would often pre-order showroom clothing samples for herself and resale clothing to her girlfriends so there was always a clothing rack in our ( formal) living room that I would enjoy looking through. She was able to do that with children’s clothing brands too so I always a few new trendy pieces to add to my wardrobe at the end of the fashion season. I loved having new fashion pieces and learned very quickly about the power of clothing and because I would wear the clothing before the articles were in the market, I stood out from the crowd and was unintentionally recognized for being ahead of my time and fashionable.

Q. : You were born in Eastside suburbs of Seattle but you call Bologna home. How did that happen?
A.: I’ll try and make a long story, shorter. The entire west-coast from Los Angeles, San Francisco , Portland, Seattle and Vancouver has some of the most world renown sportswear companies win the world. The lifestyle I grew up in didn’t support the European iconic brands and viewed fashion as excessive, flashy and egocentric but even my own culture of a minimalist lifestyle could keep my passion-4-fashion down. I loved dressing in the latest fashion trends, sewing my own clothes, making jewelry, watching a long list foreign films or collecting pages in French, Italian and American Vogue.

As soon as I finished my education in clothing design, I followed my heart to New York City where I did a design internship at Donna Karan and worked 3 months before getting a job in accessory design. I learned about leather, hardware, printed scarves, shoe and handbag design, construction, merchandising and production. I spent the next 8 years perfecting my accessory design skills, gaining extensive knowledge and experience and gradually became the Vice President of design for DKNY and managed several people and teams all over the world that changed my life forever.

I was offered many different opportunities to relocate to Europe and was also advised by the worlds most prestigious headhunter and founder Florian de Saint Pierre that it was vital to my career to have experience in Paris, London or Milan and finally the time was right for me to spread my wings and relocate to Italy.
I was offered with to join FURLA in Bologna, Italy as the Creative Director overseeing all products including handbags, shoes, jewelry, home goods, watches, eyewear and managed a staff of designers, graphic design, pattern makers, sewers, art directors and development. Everything I had been working on throughout my experience at DKNY but highlighted difference wasn’t about the creativity, it was about leveling up my leadership skills, broadening my resources and deepening my knowledge of Italian craftsmanship and on a personal note, I always dreamt of living in Italy.

Q.: How did you come across the inspiration for some of your favorite designs?

A.: I have several consistent design references that were conceived throughout my childhood as an Equestrian growing up in the 1970’s at the base of the Issaquah Alps that I think define the greater part of I am inspired by but the final touch comes from the glamorous life I always dreamt of having as a child where I pull on the fantastical roaring 1920’s and originality of the Bauhaus movement. I spend a lot of time on my work and it starts with causal relaxing research like shopping international markets, flea markets, vintage and book stores. Feeling my way through a list of what makes me stop and want more.

Q.: Now you have started designing wall coverings and fabric qualities, would you tell us some more about it?
A.: During the pandemic in the summer of 2020 I went my mother in Seattle and ended up living there until 2022 because my mother had health issues that needed my support. My family has an interior design company and during the pandemic was able to carry on unlike many other businesses at that time, so I began working for the company and learned a lot about spacial designing, decorating and home accessories. In 2021 I opened a lifestyle store on Amazon campus downtown Seattle that I named Tonya Hawkes Collective and invited local women in business to collaborate with me. The end result inspired me immensely to create home focused products starting with my favorite of visual art called Anthropomorphism where animals express human traits. I started the inspiration and designing the fall of 2021 with horses, my first love, then monkey’s, my Chinese animal year, birds for Hawkes family name and a Whippet greyhound for its elegance. More recently we incorporated our iconic resin studs from the handbag collection into the art selection all under label Hawkes Nest, symbolic of my brand in your home including Wallcoverings, Fabric, Wall Art, Poufs and coming very soon table linens napkin, placemat, runner and tea towels.



Q.: Have you ever thought about designing clothes, shoes or jewelry?
A.: My career began designing clothing while I was still in college. I designed for two time award winning best couture designer in Seattle then I began making custom clothing for my clients and have even made 5 wedding gowns! I designed and made all my own clothing until I was about 25 and could afford to buy the clothes I really wanted. I have recently designed a capsule collection of mens inspired shirts and blazers with my printed fabric collection. I launched a “Capri”sandal collection in 2017 full of studding in them and was featured in Luisa Via Roma for several years. I am so passionate about jewelry and I think with the accessories I design for my bags gives me some jewelry- type design satisfaction therefore have not dedicated the resources to make jewelry collection.

Q.: If you could collaborate with a famous brand/designer, who would you choose and why?
A.: My dream would be to collaborate with LVMH because of it’s original heritage brand Louis Vuitton that was created out of necessity for light weight, personal sized luggage for travel and nice I have travelled many times around the world, there is a spirit of freedom with in the DNA of the company that speaks to me.

Q.: What are you future plans?
A.: To continue to passionately grow my brand awareness, cultivating impactful partnerships with skin in the game. Shift our business model from our wholesale to scalable direct to consumer offline and online experience. Increase our profit sharing hostess program, improve website’s user experience design and perfect our social media platforms in terms of branding, art direction and experience. We are currently expanding on the home furnishing business with table linens and bespoke ceramics. This year we are pivoting from seeming as two brands into cohesive visuals of our lifestyle brand.

Q.: Three adjectives to descrive your brand
A.: Curious, artistic and heritage                                                                                                                                                  

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