If you believe that handbags are like works of art, then you would get along very well with Toronto handbag designer, and former accountant Sneha Varma. Although a very new, fresh line (the first collection came out for Fall 2012), Varma has already enjoyed great success; her line of colourful, chic, durable, yet slick designs has become a mainstay, not only for Canadian stylesetters, but also industry insiders and bloggers, and has been featured in top magazines. It’s clear this designer is on the fast-track to success, and with all those sales rolling in, she’ll certainly be putting her accounting skills to work.
When did you realize that life as an accountant was not right for you?
I would not say that it was not right for me. Actually, it has served, and continues to serve me well. My background allows me to properly understand, manage, and ultimately grow my business. There just came a point in my life and career where I decided to turn a strong passion for handbags into a business. In my case, I believe this was possible due to my accounting background.
I have a natural affinity for bags, and truly appreciate the design and craftsmanship that goes into each bag. My love for bags dates to as far back as I can remember. It was just a matter of time before I felt so compelled to convert my passion into a business. It just felt right.
How would you describe your style as a designer?
Modern and a bit edgy.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration mainly from the everyday, as well as from street style around the world.
What was it like to move from accounting to fashion?
It was scary, quite honestly. Entering an industry as a business-owner rather than as a consumer is completely different, as obvious as that may be. However, my drive and commitment supersedes all fear. If you want to grow, both personally and professionally, I believe you have to continuously challenge yourself and travel outside your comfort zone.
Did you have any training or background in the fashion/handbag industry?
No formal training. The knowledge I have obtained and continue to obtain has come through experience, research, and self-teaching.
How do you like to begin the design process; does it just happen organically?
It begins with a visual in my head, whether it is a colour palette, a whole silhouette, or parts of a bag, and then I bring it to paper. The rest flows from there.
If you could work in any city in the world, where would it be and why?
I would work in New York City. There is a tremendous amount of support for emerging designers there, especially in the handbag industry, such as local manufacturers and suppliers to source materials from.
What is your favourite material to work with?
To date it’s been nappa sheepskin, mainly due to the texture. I have not worked with too many materials yet and look forward to discovering more materials for future collections.
What other materials are you currently craving to work with?
I would love to create my own custom graphic prints.
What do you look for in a good handbag design?
It should be functional but also stylish and in keeping with the times.
Do you have a favourite piece out of your collection?
That’s a difficult question to answer because I love all of the pieces in my collection. However, I have a special place in my heart for the “NYC mini”.
Who would you most like to see wearing your bags?
The woman I design for is fearless and edgy, an uptown meets downtown conglomerate. She appreciates the simplicity of useful things, but spices things up with sharp angles and color. She wants people to notice her, but not in a “look at me” way. I like it when people do a double take not because they know the label, but because they want to know the label.
If you could speak to any designer/artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Nicolas Ghesquière. He is one of the reasons I entered this business on account of his iconic “Motorcycle” bags. I would love to pick his brain.
Where do you see yourself/your company in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would like for this company to be a globally recognized/respected brand.
Any plans for expansion beyond handbags?
Eventually, yes. I would love for the company to develop into a bit of a lifestyle brand.