A Conversation with Jamaican bag designer, Alia Michèle Orane

This week we interview up and coming  Jamaican bag designer, Alia Michèle Orane. A talented Kingstonian, Alia resided in New York City for many years before recently moving back to Jamaica, where she makes her bags using a small sewing machine. She has been featured in many online publications and print magazines as one of the hottest and hippest bag designers.

Q: Thanks for taking some time to speak to us. How did you get into fashion?  Did you go to school for fashion design?
I actually studied Graphic Design with a minor in Textiles….and right before I graduated I realized I really loved Textiles a lot more and wanted to do something in that area for the rest of my life.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to focus on bag designing?
It was the second to last quarter of college, when I realized that I bought too many bags, and felt that I could make most of them myself. One of my best friends  came over one day to my apartment with a book on how to make handbags! I made 10 bags for my closest female friends as part of my screen-printing final project, and that Spring Break I went home and told my parents that this was what I wanted to do.

Q: Tell us about you and your bags.
I am an adventurous, fun-loving girl who loves creating things that brighten the days of people’s lives. My bags represent where I am in my life, and the paths I have crossed with different people. I believe everyone comes into your life for a reason, and most times I sit and try to figure out those reasons….but I find that every person has inspired me in some way. You’d be surprised the amount of ideas in my head for so many people.

Q: Where do you get inspiration for your bag concepts?

I think everything. Places, People, Art, Nature….you name it. I have a weird eye….I’ll see something as simple as a button on a shirt and have an idea.

Q: Who are your top 5 bag designers?
I really only admire Kate Spade for creating a handbag business with her husband from the ground up. At the time, she saw a need for more stylish handbags and the company has expanded to creating clothing, home goods, eyewear…you name it. She is one of my role models…the day I read her story was the day I was inspired to conquer anything.

Q: If your bags were a reggae artist who would they be?

Tessanne Chin. This was a tough question, but her name was the first that came to mind, mostly because of her style, her beautiful voice, and the mixture of genres in her music.

Q: If you could have 1 celebrity call you to design a bag who would it be?
Marc Jacobs. He’s a fashion designer, but I love his business ethic, and how much he took the Louis Vuitton brand to another level. So I’d be über flattered if he called me.

Q: What is the best advice you can give a woman about selecting a bag for any location?
Always find a bag that complements what you’re wearing, rather than something that matches.

Q: Are your bags currently available in retail stores in Jamaica and the US?
No. I am currently revamping my whole business, but they will be available online www.aliamichele.com, and should be in some stores by 2011.

Q: Do you see yourself getting into retail and setting up a bag boutique?
Not right now, but who knows what the future holds…I just might.

Q: The one piece of advice my mother gave me that I will never forget is…

“Life will always be good to you if you let it, and if you believe and accept that you deserve only the best…that’s what you’ll receive”

Q: What book, movie or song changed your life?
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I remember being at a point in life where I was quite lost, and every day on the train in New York City, where I used to live, someone was reading that book. I bought it, and my whole perspective on life and self-love changed. It’s funny that when I get into the uninspired mode, someone always reminds me of that book. It really changed my life.

Q: Thanks for the interview. Any final thoughts?