Mariya Dykalo is the Creative Director credited with giving Aspinal of London a new attitude. Over the course of 12 years the Ukranian-born designer has moved through the company, from intern to Creative Director. Mariya is married, and has a seven-year-old son and a newborn baby. So how does she juggle business and family life, and stay motivated and inspired in the competitive accessories market?
Talk us through the highs and lows of your journey from Intern to Creative Director of Aspinal.
My biggest challenge was when I first moved to England from the Ukraine. Moving away from your family is always going to be difficult, but having to learn a new language completely from scratch presented quite a challenge! You have to look at these things as an adventure and that’s exactly what I did. Right now my biggest challenge is balancing my busy family life with my two beautiful children, as well as pushing my creativity at work.
Juggling your professional and private life must be difficult at times. Do you ever feel like giving up? How do you stay motivated?
My parents were my biggest motivation– they always encouraged me to work hard and pursue my dreams. Today, my husband and children influence my career and give me inspiration every day. For me a happy family is fundamental to help build a successful career and feel complete.
When aspiring designers or young creatives ask you for advice, what do you tell them?
Education is key and a necessary starting point. I’ve never stopped learning and I think that is very important to becoming successful. In design you can constantly learn, whether is it new techniques, new opportunities, or broadening your mind to embrace new inspiration.
You’ve worked with Aspinal for more than 12 years. How do you continue to come up with ideas for new pieces and collections?
When in search for inspiration, I look to British culture (past and present), art, architecture and people. I’m constantly inspired by the women I see day to day, with their hectic schedules and contemporary lifestyles. I’m also always excited to discover new things, and many of our collaborations come from social media connections, with Instagram being my personal favourite.
Talk us through the manufacturing process of your favourite bag.
Inspiration starts with vibrant and textured swatches of leather on my mood board. I collect all kinds of things, and take inspiration from everything from theatre tickets to walks around our beautiful head office in Sussex. I get excited about books, art, film and architecture, all related to British culture, history or nature. This inspiration converts into the colours and textures of the new season, and we always add new bag designs to the collection. At this stage we create samples of every bag in the collection. These are then presented to our merchandising team and together we create a range plan for the next collection. Not every style of bag works in every colourway and these samples get shelved. My favourite part of the process is actually designing new bag styles. I lock myself in my design studio surrounded by mood boards and just start sketching. The second best part of the process is seeing the samples all together for the first time. You can see the collection as a whole and work out what works together harmoniously and what doesn’t work. Each collection takes about eight months from conception to having a complete range. The process is completed by our London Fashion Week event. We’ve shown at Claridges Hotel for the last few seasons and the venue is the perfect fit for us. We can truly show our vision at these events as the set is designed around the inspiration for each collection.
What’s the ratio of classic collection bags to new bags on sale at any one time? And how do you decide what products stay in rotation?
We launch new collections at London Fashion Week, but never rule out instant launches of specific bags if we feel it would benefit the business and our customers’ demand. At present Aspinal of London has 80 per cent of its products in continuity, and injects 20 per cent of newness each season, bringing new colours and shapes.
How do you cope with constant commercial pressure to create the next ‘IT-bag’?
The key is to keep the designs classic yet modern with a cool London twist. As we all know, classic styles are timeless and I love anything with a vintage feel. I’m constantly influenced by British culture, everything from nature, to art and architecture and the people around me. All of our products feature our signature branding – the Aspinal shield. You’ll always find little hidden Aspinal touches alluding to our heritage hidden on our products, which makes us different.
Who are your design heroes?
I admire Stella McCartney for simplicity and innovation, Roksanda Ilincic for great design and beautiful use of colour, Valentino for femininity and Miu Miu for vintage style and detailing.
Best handbag shopping tips for our readers?
Remember that a handbag is one of your most personal possessions. A handbag can tell you a lot about the woman wearing it. Whether it’s bright and bold or simple and subtle, a woman’s handbag can really give you a sense of her personality. You can tell if she is organised, or effortless, or just wants to make a statement, by looking at the handbag she’s chosen.
This Spring, Aspinal of London have opened their very first standalone store in Scotland in a 1500 sq foot, 19th century building on Edinburgh’s George Street. Visit the store at 43 George Street, Edinburgh or shop online www.aspinaloflondon.com