Unusual and striking designs that catch the eye form the basis of a new bag collection.

IT’S not easy coming up with a handbag range, especially with so many designs on the market, and creativity and talent play an important role.

For Iliza Ho, there’s the added plus of being the protege of none other than Datuk Jimmy Choo.

The 32-year-old Taiwanese national began her career in wooden toy design at Mentari Massen International Co. She then went on to become a watch designer for Leading Generation Corp where she packed, created and organised new forecasting products for Hush Puppies. She even dabbled in shoe design, but found herself wanting to learn more.

“I realised I didn’t know how to design handbags and wanted to learn to create a staple product. With that in mind, I went to London to study handbag design. I enrolled in the FdA Fashion Design and Technology course at the London College of Fashion. It was then that one of my classmates suggested I apply to do an internship with Datuk Jimmy Choo,” she said.

Iliza Ho handbag designer.

What Ho didnt expect was that her short stint as an intern would lead to her becoming Datuk Jimmy Choo’s personal assistant and then protege.

“I became his intern in 2010. After a while, he would ask me to draw something and tested my potential on creativity and design details. He was really focused on the details,” she said. “When we travelled together, he would always say ‘use your surroundings for ideas and bring it back to your designs,’” she added.

Ho was encouraged to find inspiration from different aspects of life, and to observe what people wore.

Her Spring/Summer 2014 capsule collection, which was seen at the recent Kuala Lumpur Fashion Weekend, saw models dressed homogeneously in ethereal blush hued dresses strutting down the runway with the handbags.

The bags are certainly unique, with its bright colours, cutout designs and unusual shapes.

Set to launch next year, the main concept of the collection was the idea of “floating”.

“When I look at a handbag, it always seemed like it was drifting mid-air. Based on this very concept, all the handbags feature an outer leather bag with cutouts that allow you to see the ‘inner-bag’ or the lining that looks like another bag ‘floating’ within the outer bag,” said Ho.

Iliza Ho Handbags Spring/Summer 2014.

“I also wanted anyone who used my bags to feel like their stress levels were floating away,” she added.

With bags these days weighing as heavy as a brick, Ho’s bags were indeed a breath of fresh air as they were relatively light.

Although she had the opportunity to learn about designing shoes, Ho said she always knew that she wanted to create handbags.

“Creating a pair of shoes required many different types of machines as well as people who specialised in different areas of shoe making, but when it came to handbags, I only needed my sewing machine. I have full creative and design control over my product. It also made me a better designer as I could learn to immediately correct design gridlocks.”

As to what she learnt from her mentor, Ho says creativity is obviously an important element. “Datuk Jimmy Choo is a very skilled artist and this is probably due to his motto ‘creativity through skills’. It is meant to reflect the fact that in order to have flawless design creativity, one must have the skills to design an object and to understand the challenges in creating the end product. The devil is in the details.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing as Ho said she faced some challenges, especially in the form of working out the lining.

“I did not follow the traditional methods as my bags are not the cookie cutter square or rectangular shapes. I created a new shape and hence, had to work out the lining for each design.” Despite that, she was able to complete her collection in two months.

“I am really proud of that fact as when I was in school, I usually completed a bag in two weeks and now I have made 10 bags in two months!”

On what she hopes to achieve, Ho said it was her dream that her namesake brand be known for its unique designs, especially in Taiwan and Europe.

“As a designer, I definitely want to achieve international recognition, but it takes hard work and that little bit of luck.”

> Iliza Ho is one of the participating designers for the Mercedes Benz STYLO Asia Fashion Week, to be held in Langkawi from Nov 30 till Dec 4.