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It’s pretty common knowledge that women tend to accessorize more than men, but given all the options women have, I would certainly hope they would. Jewelry, costume jewelry, head wear, watches, purses, clutches and of course the two big ones; shoes and handbags. No matter what woman you ask, most of the time they’ll say shoes and handbags are just as much fashion statements as their entire outfits are. They are extensions of them; single piece fashion statements that ooze flirty sophistication with bold, vivid colors. Fortunately for us, we were able to snag some time with a designer that we first encountered at Miami Metropolitan International Fashion Week and is playing a major part in this movement. With an idea and a passion for high quality, hand crafted accessories and custom handbags, Candy Woolley is well on her way to the top.

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How long have you been designing?
I have been designing since 2003, but I have been in the industry my entire life. My parents were tailors and I grew up in the sewing business.

What made you decide to start designing?
I got a bachelors degree in graphic design in 2001 and in 2003 I wanted to put together my love for art and fashion together.

How do you feel designing jewelry & handbags differs from designing clothing?
There is no difference because the same principals are used such as line, form, color, and texture. In the end both accessories and clothing are a business, they are made to be sold. Accessories and clothing go hand in hand. One cannot be without the other.

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What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a designer?
One of my biggest accomplishments is that celebrities that are known all over the world have noticed my handbags and actually wear them too. Kourtney Kardashian, Daisy Fuentes, and Whitney Port are some examples. Also, CNN interviewed me live once. So having that opportunity to gain exposure through a large media outlet like that and having it viewed all over the world was incredible. I let my family know I was on TV so they could watch me. That moment made me feel like what I am doing is real.

Are there any local or nationally known designers that inspire your designs?
Coco Channel, Salvatore Ferragamo are designers that inspire me because of their humble beginnings and their hard work. It really is amazing reading their biographies to see that you start little and getting bigger. It all depends on you, if you work hard and if you believe in yourself.

What would you say your personal style is, and does it inspire any of your designs?
I am the kind of person that likes to discover, I am very observant and very detailed. My designs reflect my personality in the way that they are very experimental, artistic, and every detail is important in the final piece. The way I observe and discover helps me because when I design a custom bag one of the first things I do is learn as much about the client I am making it for.

With so many companies having jewelry lines, what separates Candy Woolley from the rest of the pack?
My pieces are one-of-a-kind and personalized to the client’s needs. I also utilize objects in my jewelry that are actually handpicked during my travels. That is something a massed produced line cannot offer.

What are your favorite materials to work with when making a handbag?
I love working with soft leathers, hair on cowhides and snake skins. I also enjoy mixing all of these to give unexpected finishes.

Do you prefer sketching or drawing a design or do you prefer to construct it and make tweaks as you go along?
I work with expensive materials so having a well planned designed before I begin is important. As the design progresses, I might make tweaks, but the original sketch is important. If not, I feel I am doing it blind without knowing what direction I am going.

Take us through the typical process you use to design and construct a handbag.
It all begins with an image I see in my mind, then I put it on paper either in words, sketches, or both. For every design, it’s imperative that I make a prototype, first with paper and sometimes I use fabric in order to plan the final construction. The materials I use are very expensive so I cannot afford to make mistakes or else I lose materials and many hours of work. I cannot guess, planning is very important.

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How long does the process, from design to finish product, usually take?
This varies depending on how involved the design is. The most complex piece that I make takes up to 30 hours.

Can people submit orders to you for custom, one of a kind, hand bags?
Yes, custom is one of my main ways of working with my customers. I schedule appointments with clients either in person or on the phone and show them and/or email them leathers and other materials available. I make sketches and show the client 3 options based on what was discussed on the first meeting. When the client receives her bag, as an added bonus, she gets the chance to become a Candy Girl; she gets a professional photoshoot and her picture is featured on the Candy Woolley Accessories fan page. If the client is out of the state, she can submit a picture for a chance to be featured.

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Now what avenues do you typically showcase your pieces at?
There are high-end boutiques and art galleries that showcase some of my pieces and I also go to fashion events. My main business avenues are through my website and Facebook fan page

How do you select your models?
I like working with models that show sophistication and class. I make a luxury product, so the model must project this to the customer while showcasing my designs. Once I have worked with a model and I see that there is chemistry, I like calling her back for more projects, especially if they show up on time because it shows respect towards others involved in the project.

What’s the next big thing we all can expect from Candy Woolley?
An E-commerce shop and making my designs available online to people that are looking for handcrafted-luxury fashion around the world.

© 2012 The Good Life Miami. All images contained in this article were used with permission by Candy Woolley. Any unauthorized reproduction of any images contained in this article is strictly forbidden.