On this week’s blog I’m going south of the Equator to the land of the tango, cowboys. steak and leather… Argentina! I’ve been chatting (or nattering!) with the delightful Meredith who has designed some rather funky luxury handbags and accessories for playful personalities, all handcrafted in Buenos Aires and inspired by the energetic explosions of colour found not only in Argentina but throughout Latin America! So, Meredith, a big warm Hola to you!
Hi! My name Meredith Wilkins a Virginia girl, turned expat, accessories designer living in Buenos Aires with my darling dog Biscuit with the goal of creating accessories that are so yummy you might just want to eat them.
You spent years working in the fields of technology and real estate in Virginia, so what inspired you to change career direction, start up your business and move to Buenos Aires?
I have been a maker/designer of all kinds of things since I was very young. At age 4, I went to an Egyptian mummy exhibit and was floored by the ornate jewelry and decoration. Using items from my granddaddy’s junk drawers and workshop I made an elaborate headpiece inspired by my girl Cleopatra. I was so happy making it and even prouder wearing it around. These creative projects never ceased. But while I have a very creative mom, a creative career in my family was never given much attention. So I never esteemed design or art as a career for myself and I discounted my creative abilities because they didn’t feel like hard work. So this industry change has been coming for a while it just took me a while to figure it out. I moved to Buenos Aires for many reasons, but one was just the access to great leather and craftsman to make this possible. The outdoor cafes and handsome polo players don’t hurt either!
Your bags have been created for women with outgoing & playful personalities! When choosing designs/styles/colours for your bags, do you go by popular styles, customer requests, fashion trends, your own tastes/needs or bits of all those?
I really don’t start designing thinking about any specific handbag trends, but I do think we are all exposed to a lot of the same art, culture and fashion, etc. so that there is a general wavelength from which all designers draw inspiration and it results in designs that may be considered “on trend.” I do like to make sure that I offer handbag shapes that are appealing and complementary to some of the current clothing designs and any prints I may be developing. For my next collections Fall/ Winter + Resort, everything started with an abstract painting and another one a random doodle, which I have developed into a print for leather and was the foundation for the whole collection. I definitely create pieces that I would like to wear.
How did you come up with your brand name, “Bizi”?
I always wanted a name that was easy to remember and a bit unplaceable. My feisty mutt Biscuit or Bizcocho in Spanish was christened by her Argentine amigos as Biz or Bizi. And quite frankly, she is a total inspiration to me every day in innumerable ways. So because this project was so dear to me just like her – it fit.
My absolute favourite of your bags is the very funky futuristic Llao Llao Pleiades Collection Large Tote. To date, what has been your most popular bag ordered from your repertoire?
Thank you! Actually it would be that one and the large frame in the same Pleiades collection. The Lucite geometric mirrors give what is a classic shape an ultra contemporary space aged feel. The silver leather is muted so it provides a nice contrast with the Lucite mirrors. And this silver leather is amazing, goes with everything and is a year round item.
Out of all the handbags on your website, what is or has been your favourite?
I love the same ones you do. The Pleiades Llao Llao bag is so striking, but also practical as it fits everything plus your small dog and so comfortable to wear. But I also ADORE the pink Nahuala Palermo Chico small frame satchel. The pink print is tribal but feminine, and I developed it from a collection of vintage Guatemalan textiles I have collected. I use this as a cross-body bag for running errands or going out to lunch. It holds all the essentials and the hand-forged custom frame hints of the fabulous French ironwork found throughout Buenos Aires. The Lucite rooster makes it a little quirky and upbeat. And it goes great with jeans or a dress. So quite a versatile little satchel.
Your designs cannot fail to be inspired by the energetic explosions of colour found throughout Latin America – from the sultry Argentine Tango dancers to vibrant flora colours of the jungle, the white sands and the azure seas….I’m dreaming now!! What place have you visited that really had the WOW factor and gave your imagination a real boost? What place would you love to visit for inspiration if you could?
The indigenous markets I have explored in Ecuador and Mexico have been great sources of inspiration for all their colorful and geometric textiles. In Latin America, I want to go to Guatemala and Peru next. These markets from what I discern online will be for me like walking into a colorful candy shop. Plus I love to see the process behind how their textiles are made and the love and pride that goes into their pieces.
India is right now is tops on my list. But if I go, I really want it to be for a month at least so I have to figure that out. And I think that will be after I am feeling better! Online, I am getting to know each region of India and the textiles for which they are famous. Also I am a fan of many a Bollywood movie with all their color, music and beautiful costumes, I could happily draw inspiration just from Bollywood for years to come.
Talking of women with outgoing & playful personalities earlier, and bearing in mind you’re based in Argentina, I could just imagine your bags would have been Eva Peron’s cup of tea as well as the feisty Madonna who plays her character in the film, Evita (one of my favourite films!) What famous lady, dead or alive, would you love to see wearing your handbag with pride?
Well, if you visit Buenos Aires you must visit the Museo de Evita, which is home to a lot of Eva Peron’s dresses, hats, handbags and shoes on display. Afterwards you can have a wonderful brunch in the outdoor garden café. It’s a lovely place, nestled beneath a green, tree-line street in Palermo Chico. Since you are talking along the lines of Eva Peron, then I would say I would be honored to have beautiful Argentine born, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands wear a Bizi handbag. Couldn’t get much better than that!
Have you got plans to extend your range in the future?
Yes! I am adding about 6-8 new styles and some complementary necklaces for FW and Resort as well as adding some coordinating solids that compliment the upcoming, featured prints. But still in interesting leather finishes that I think Bizi customers will love!
Unfortunately, you were diagnosed as suffering from the debilitating disease, Lyme Disease, which at first put paid to your designing ambitions. How hard was it to overcome the problems and actually get your dream career going in the end?
Well, very hard. I had just started with this business when I started getting sick, It took a long time to get properly diagnosed and this project was put on hold. But I regarded getting healthy as my new full time job and went about it with extreme intensity. A tube was placed into my heart, which was used to pump in strong antibiotics every day for over a year. This was the nuclear option and I made some good improvements, but eventually went downhill again. I then researched alternative treatments and one was extremely helpful. I am better in some ways, but not 100%. But I plan on getting there ASAP. So it is an added challenge because I still deal with a lot of unpleasant symptoms that I have to manage while growing a business. However, Bizi has definitely been a medicinal outlet for my own creative expression and a wonderfully positive distraction. I think when we go through trying times it is important to surround yourself with uplifting art, design, music and movies that energize you. And that is what I hope comes through in my designs because I am creating what I am most craving now! Bizi is meant for the girl who wishes to inject a little levity and festive whimsy into her life. For her life is serious enough, so fashion is her refuge for all things quirky fun and joyful!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Argentina is very casual. So when I “dress up” its mostly casual chic. I live in jeans and I like to dress them up with a cool top, statement necklace or colorful scarf and of course a great bag. I tend to gravitate towards expressive accessories paired with quirky basics as a general rule. But since I am at the dog park a lot and out visiting suppliers my day is more dirty than dressy and I can assure you this look is far less interesting and may even require a fashion intervention! HAH! Just keeping it real!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Well in Argentina, I love JT by JT because she stands out for being more experimental, Tramando for his futuristic clothes and interesting transfer prints. I also love Rapsodia for ethnic inspired clothes and scarves that are very wearable.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Like most expats living here, I have a HUGE clothing list when I head back to the U.S. There are amazing designers here, but there isn’t any consistency to sizes so most expats unless super petite can find shopping hit or miss. So I can’t wait to go home and stock up. Right now I want a really nice classic black leather biker-jacket, which I hope I can find here. And I’ll take most any shoe by Sophia Webster although I can’t promise I can walk well in them.
Boots or Shoes?
It just depends on what I am wearing and my mood. Because Buenos Aires has a short winter I try to get away with sandals as long as possible which I adore best of all. I am pretty clumsy in heels so flats are my friend. Come winter I live in boots because I am always freezing. Argentina is great because there are only 2 months that are really cold so the rest of the year I can try to get away with my beloved sandals.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Bizi?
I’d love to connect with your readers!
Also be sure sign up to our emailing list for 15% off your first purchase over on on our blog!
I hope you find your black biker jacket Meredith, it’s the one item in my wardrobe that has constant wear – with jeans or dresses! Thanks for introducing us to your fab bag collection and I am sure that many of my outgoing readers will be heading for your website for a taste of Latina fun!
Photo Credits: All photos have been published with kind permission from Bizi Buenos Aires/Meredith Wilkins.