Growing up in Leipzig, East Germany when the socialist state still existed pre- “fall of the wall,” Cindy Gellersen knew she was destined to be a designer despite the implausibility of the occupation at the time. The destruction of the wall and the merging of Germany gave Cindy the belief that becoming a designer could actually be in her realm of possibilities. To pursue her dream as an adult she relocated to Los Angeles, and now runs BAGSTIL, a handbag line defined by its distinctive details and modern silhouettes. Each creation is made in Los Angeles, merging California style with recognizably European design.
BAGSTIL‘s intricate studded details and modern craftsmanship create a hybrid of punk-influenced design and classic construction. Sourcing most of her materials from LA (and the rest from various sources across the U.S.), has earned Cindy a spot on the inaugural bus tour of American Made Chic. This summer a red, white and blue bus hosted by five influential American women will depart on a cross country tour raising awareness for jobs, manufacturing, products and services in the United States. After chatting with Cindy, it is easy to see why she perfectly personifies this movement.
Pictured: Cindy Gellersen, Founder of BAGSTIL.
Haute Americana: What inspired you to create a line of European-influenced handbags?
Cindy Gellersen: I am a handbag junky, and the best way to feed my addiction was to create my own Line of handbags. No really.
HA: How did you break into the fashion industry?
CG: My ambition to become a professional designer goes back to my childhood in Leipzig, when it was still called East Germany and lay behind the “Iron Curtain.” Having been born there made my dream seem extremely far-fetched at that time. The fall of the “Wall” enabled me to start the pursuit of my dream. It was a struggle to get into the design field and make a living at the same time. To improve my odds I moved to Los Angeles and my persistence paid off when I was hired by a local denim brand as a designer after I completed the school. I worked very hard and gained valuable experience in the field. I also realized that I had to create my own products and develop my own brand. The next big step was when my husband Lars and I founded BAGSTIL Inc in 2009. My husband also has a design background (in the architectural field) and a business background so he understood and supported my desire to create my own products and to start BAGSTIL from the get-go.
HA: Why keep your production and manufacturing in LA?
CG: It was very important to us that all of our bags were not only designed in Los Angeles but also handcrafted in the area. Two reasons were to provide superior quality control and also to have US standard working conditions during manufacturing.
HA: Where do you draw inspiration for your collection?
CG: I love horses and horseback riding. The ruggedness and the functionality of the hardware and the material involved in horseback riding inspired my current collection in a big way. Aesthetics, movement, and elegance are a big part of horses and horseback riding. I wanted to express that with my collection.
HA: Which BAGSTIL bag are you currently wearing?
CG: Clubs7 in green. It’s small but has still plenty of space to fit my phone, wallet, glasses and snacks for the kids. The adjustable chain strap can be singled, doubled or removed (pictured below).
HA: Your bags are renowned for their versatility, explain how the interchangeable pockets work.
CG: Our bags feature versatile interchangeable pockets, which are interior pockets that can be snapped in and out, allowing you to take what’s inside one bag and move it
into another with a snap.
HA: Having grown up in Leipzig, how do your German roots affect your personal style now that you live in Los Angeles?
CG: My personal Style is absolutely LA. I love the California lifestyle. In terms of my hand bag design, I would describe it as a BAGSTIL bag is made with German craftsmanship and the California lifestyle as design esthetic.
HA: What are some of your favorite American-made brands?
CG: Rag & Bone, Hard Tail Forever and American Apparel.
HA: What’s on the horizon for BAGSTIL?
Available beginning this summer you can expect classic bodies in exotic skins, belt purses in bright colors and some amazing cuffs. I am really exited about this line.