“The Anne Sylvain woman, is both sophisticated in her style and the way she sees the world. She’s not the woman you see first when she walks into the room, but when you do see her you think, ‘Wow, she looks great’. And inexplicably you keep looking back. She has a depth of style. She’s edgy but still somehow timeless.”
–Patricia Raskin, Designer
I had the pleasure of spending an hour with Patricia Raskin, a Seattle-based business lawyer and the genius behind Anne Sylvain handbags who in 2008 decided it was “now or never” if she wanted to create. Years later after trial and error and going through multiple manufacturers, she has produced beautiful bags that are now available in stores in Bellevue, San Francisco, Maryland and Washington D.C. She was gracious enough to share a little slice of her story.
Kiri Callaghan: So “Le Mans”–named of course, for the annual road race in France–this is your first collection, yes? Can you tell us what started it all?
Patricia Raskin: Oh, That’s a great scene for you. In 2006 I was visiting a friend in Paris, we were on our way to dinner, and he said, “I gotta show you something.” And he took me around the corner to a hotel—Hotel Costes, they do music, by the way, they’re renown for hip and trendy—anyway, there were five sports cars parked out front. And I’d seen sports cars but never really took it in but on that street in front of that hotel—there was just something about it that really drew me in. It was so chic. It was the first time I ever looked at a car and thought, ‘This is art.’ And now I just have this passion for cars… You know the Ferrari dealer on Madison and 12th? That’s an art gallery to me. I can stand there and just admire—I usually go at night, obviously, but I get such an artistic inspiration from them. Anyway, that’s where it started.
PR: When you look at those cars, they are in a way simple, but it’s that sleek simplicity that—you can go that fast because you have nothing holding you back—not just in sleekness but also in quality. They’re using all these top quality materials from the steel they use to the carbon fiber—to even digital components. And so similarly we’ve got a mix of the most elite materials; genuine South African Ostrich, American alligator, and French lamb. And all the supplier’s I use, by the way, are Eco-conscious—significantly Eco-conscious. My alligator supplier is one of five in the world that is certified sustainable by Greenpeace, as an example.
KC: That’s amazing–most people don’t think of high end designer handbags being ethical fashion.
PR: People think ‘ethical fashion’ means down home, folksy–it doesn’t. It means pay attention to all the details. You could buy a handbag that’s made of faux leather and think it’s good for the environment, but it’s synthetic, it was made from chemicals, it was shipped from China—be mindful of the carbon footprint. All of my bags are vegetable dyed. They’re made in the US–which has really become a passion of mine. Not just supporting local manufacturers and the economy but also a quality—the high level of craftsmanship in the United States. There are very few workshops in the United states that provide this kind of quality—I know of only two and I’ve worked with five to get where I am. And it’s that tradition that I feel like I’m supporting.
KC: And it’s that high-quality of craft and materials that makes Anne Sylvain so special.
PR: It’s very difficult to mix not only these different leathers, but also these different textures and create a sleek piece where everything matches up and it looks organic. My bags are dyed as opposed to being painted—painting you can easier cover flaws and also get a more exacting color. With mine, you may not always get the exact shade of gray because they’re all hand dyed. You probably wouldn’t notice the color difference, but I’d notice. If you put them all together, you’d notice. And my workshop does repairs so in the event that something did ever happen–my clients could contact me and we could get the… well I call them “broken”–could get them fixed.
PR: Yes. All of my bags are numbered. So if a client told me they had… number 27 of the Elise–all of my bags are named after sports cars, the Lotus Elise–but I’d know exactly which bag they were talking about.
KC: That’s an interesting subject, names. Why Anne Sylvain?
PR: Well my grandmother was a very prolific artist and her work… Every time you looked at it, year after year, you got something new from it. And her name was Anne. And my grandfather’s name was Sylvain and he was a lawyer. I named it Anne Sylvain to honor them.
After only a year of actively marketing her bags, four high-end boutiques carrying her work and tantalizing ideas for what is to come for her collection in the spring, Patricia Raskin can definitely close out the year with a satisfied smile.
For store locations or custom orders, visit annesylvain.com.