Recently, a Clara Kasavina “Peggy” clutch was given to me as a gift. Someone knew what would bring a smile to my face, a twinkle to my eyes, and certainly what would accompany me on my upcoming crossing on the QM2. It also sparked my interest in the Clara Kasavina Collection.

Clara and her husband started their business in New York thirty years ago and have handcrafted luxury items since. There were so many beautiful handbags and clutches, I would not have been able to pick a favorite. I could get one or two a year and be happy. What started as belt buckles expanded to handbags and clutches, then jewelry, and now pieces for the home.

It is easy to see why so many celebrities like Bar Paly, Beyoncé, Heather Graham, Rihanna and Catherine Zeta-Jones choose Clara Kasavina. I wanted to learn more, so I asked for an interview.

When we won InStyle Magazine’s Award for Independent Handbag Designer of the Year. That was a big honor. ~ Clara Kasavina

Maralyn Hill: Were you interested in fashion as a child?

Clara Kasavina: When I was a young girl in Russia, my mother was a stylist. She would take me with her to visit seamstresses and couturiers to St. Petersburg society women. My fascination with fashion and accessories probably began there. Those are some of my earliest memories.

MH: When did you get interested in fashion design, and at what point did you begin creating your exquisite purses and jewelry? 

CK: I was always interested in fashion. When I moved to the United States, my husband, Misha Berger, and I began a business designing belt buckles. It was very successful very fast. Between Misha’s talents as a metal worker and my constant sketching and designing, it just felt like the logical next step to expand into handbags and costume jewelry soon after. The market welcomed us warmly and we kept going ever since!

MH: Will you share your inspiration for your collection and the materials you use?

CK: I am always very inspired by vintage designs and materials. A lot of my designs stem from a feeling of nostalgia for the glamorous women of St. Petersburg I used to see as a child. I remember the dresses, the cuts, the handbags, the hairstyles and the looks very well. I also love bold colors, and absolutely love crystals and unusual stones. I definitely favor those in my designs.

MH: Do you find the materials difficult to source? 

CK: We source our materials both in the United States and overseas, but we take great pride in the fact that all of our products are designed and assembled in New York City. We have longstanding relationships with our materials vendors, and they’re all the best in their fields, so I haven’t had any problems since I found each of them.

MH: What are the touches that make your clutches and purses stand apart from the competition?

CK: The fact that we are a family-run business.  All of our designs and prototypes are designed by hand and all of our manufacturing is done domestically. This is a huge source of pride for us.  I feel like each piece has its own soul. People who collect my bags have often said the same thing to me.

MH: How would you define your personal style?

CK: Feminine, eclectic and vintage-inspired.

MH: What has been the most exciting moment in your business career?

CK: When we won InStyle Magazine’s Award for Independent Handbag Designer of the Year. That was a big honor.

MH: Do you see any changes or trends that will influence future lines?

CK: We will continue making the great quality hand-crafted accessories that have made our reputation over the years. We always consider our designs with an eye towards a woman who likes to stand out in a crowd and wants to be noticed.

MH: I’m enthralled with my “Peggy” clutch.  Do you get many raves from those who use your purses?

CK: We do! That particular design combines our signature metal work with the exotic skins that we have become known for. It’s a timeless, elegant piece that a woman can wear forever.

MH: Have you ever done any custom purses? 

CK: All the time!  We work closely with some of our devoted customers on customizing finishes and skins to suit their tastes.  We also have a wonderful relationship with the Metropolitan Opera, where they give us antique materials from the Opera House to work with in developing custom designs for them.

MH: What has been the most exciting moment in your business career?

CK: When we won InStyle Magazine’s Award for Independent Handbag Designer of the Year. That was a big honor.

MH: Can you share something about the famous people who have carried your purses?

CK: We have collected many celebrity fans over the years, including Grammy Award-winning pop stars and Academy Award-nominated film stars. Our customer is a strong woman who loves style and loves being the center of attention, so it makes sense that we attract many celebrities.

MH: Each purse is so unique. Approximately how many of each do you make?

CK: All our pieces are assembled by hand with great care and time taken to keep our unique line. We take pride in not being a mass produced line. Numbers produced vary depending on design.

I appreciated the time that Clara gave me. When she and her husband got their start with belt buckles, it was for Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. Specialty stores throughout the United States quickly discovered them.

All of their pieces are considered collectible art: designed, cast and manufactured by hand. They maintain the original molds for each piece, as well. They use luxury leather, exotic skins and furs, Swarovski® crystal and precious metals.

The brand was showcased in “Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel” exhibit organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

My introduction to the Clara Kasavina Collection has given me a website to visit when I want to escape and think about a lovely dinner, walk, or cruise, as well as an extravagant dinner party. Shopping with this collection is relaxing. Fun. Entertaining. It draws me into seeing what’s new and exciting. If you check it out, I’d be very interested in hearing your reactions. Email me your feedback and comments at:

Images courtesy of Clara Kasavina Collection