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Leather bird
By ORI J. LENKINSKI
21/02/2013
For designer Abigail Panet, founder of emerging Tel Aviv-based leather goods label Lady Bird, the personal touch is a must.
 
‘Like many good things in life, this happened to me by chance,” says Abigail Panet, designer and founder of the emerging Tel Aviv-based leather goods label Lady Bird.

Looking at Panet’s first two collections, it’s hard to imagine that this statement is true. However, Panet maintains that her passion for design was a by-product of living her life and was not her original intent. Lady Bird’s sleekly made bags and wallets bring a feminine touch to the world of leather.

“I was studying at university when it all began,” she says over a cup of tea in her studio/apartment in central Tel Aviv. Several corners of her living space, where baby bottles and toys are neatly arranged, let on that Panet is a new mother. “My daughter is 10 months old. It’s the best!” she smiles.

“Anyway, I was majoring in art and psychology and, on the side, I worked at Alma Fashion. From there, one of the stylists who also worked there took a shine to me and invited me to join her in her work. After that I moved on to working at Castro, designing store windows,” she says.

Though it was perhaps not clear to her at the time, Panet’s foray into the Israeli fashion world would prove to be a permanent one. However, in the midst of building a career in styling, she decided to follow a boyfriend to Italy.

“We were living in Rome in this beautiful neighborhood. There was a leather studio nearby that hired me, totally under the table, to sew and glue their pieces. That studio made bags and wallets. They also served as an outsource for local designers. It was there that I fell in love with leather,” she says.

From Rome, Panet moved to Milan, where she studied at the Istituto Europeo di Design, specializing in leatherwork. Upon completing her studies, she returned to her Italian home base, this time without the boyfriend.

“I got a little bit of a promotion at the studio where I had worked, so I got to make patterns,” she explains.

Having learned from what she calls the “Italian bible” of leather, Panet returned to Tel Aviv to get entrenched in the local industry. She spent a year alongside veteran leather designer Daniella Lehavi, then went off on her own in 2010 to start Lady Bird.

From the outset, Lady Bird’s aesthetic was suited for the casual, laid-back look of local fashion.

“There is something very relaxed about Israeli style,” she says. “I like that a lot myself. I prefer simple clothing. I think my bags match Israeli fashion and lifestyle in that they are upscale basics. They aren’t overly complex or crazily decorative.” Her first two pieces, which are still the label’s best-sellers, were two different kinds of tote bag.

“I made them without lining,” she says, holding up a gorgeous, deep-brown tote.“ They were rough in terms of the finishing. With time, I have gotten more complex with my design, but I still make these two bags every season, and they are usually the first ones to sell out.”

Today, Lady Bird boasts a wide range of bags, from clutches and wallets to larger, duffel-like styles. All her leather is imported from Italy and then transferred to a factory in Turkey, where the leather undergoes a number of treatments to create different finishes or textures. Regardless of the size, shape or color of the bags, Panet’s delicate touch is apparent in every piece.

“I try to keep with a certain style; you could say that it’s my style. I like clean lines, and I’m a fan of practicality. I like to play with bags as if they were clothes, meaning that the leather I work with allows for a lot of movement,” she explains.

“To me, practical necessities are not my first priority.

After I get my materials to the optimal shape and style, I start thinking about practicality. I think that when you set out just to make something practical, it comes at the expense of the design. Good design combines practicality but isn’t led by it. I like to keep the colors pretty neutral, so I do a lot of browns, blacks and khakis. That said, I listen a lot to what my customers want and try to learn from them about what is really important in a bag or a wallet.”

For Panet, keeping prices reasonable is a matter of principle.

“I want my pieces to be accessible to shoppers. I don’t want my items just to be expensive for the sake of being expensive like so many leather pieces are. My most expensive bag is NIS 1,200,” she says.

In the coming months Panet, along with designers Hila Sharon of clothing label Layou and Anat Dahari, designer of the handmade shoe label Walk, will open a joint studio. The three designers, each operating in a different facet of the fashion world, plan to use their space as a studio and showroom.

In addition, Panet’s pieces can be found in Tel Aviv at Banker, Mayu, Maya Negri, Boutique 5 and in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum gift shop.

For more information about Lady Bird, visit www.ladybird.co.il.



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