Late night cleaning sessions often lead to the next great design idea, right? That’s exactly what happened to Bike Bayer when she found herself spring cleaning her apartment, decided to become a handbag designer, and looked at the clock when it read 3:24. The name of her line may have been the easiest part of the early process of finding suppliers and a manufacturer which she had her heart set on doing in the rich leather industry of Istanbul. With a corporate background and little design experience, she had a few doors closed out of fear she would never go into production. This was until she met her current manufacturer who appreciated her lust for learning the trade. Turkish-born Bayer now splits her time in between Istanbul and New York overseeing the growth of her unique line of handbags.
Was it difficult at first to leave your corporate life and start your new career as a designer?
I was either going to take the risk now or look back in a couple years in regret, so with that mindset, it wasn’t really difficult. Running your own business and not really knowing what is next can be scary, but I’ll take that over being bored any day.
What inspired the name 324 New York?
I was doing a very late night spring cleaning session and saw all this stuff I had, just laying around, collecting dust. That’s when the idea for designing bags that can adapt to your life came into my head. It happened to be 3:24 AM and I was in my apartment New York, so it felt appropriate to name the brand that.
Can you describe what your experience was like working with artisans in Istanbul to learn how to make handbags?
It was a little intimidating at first because I was approaching people who know everything about working with leather and craftsmanship and I walked in there knowing absolutely nothing. I had some sketches and lots of ideas but in terms of how to make any of it happen, I was clueless. A lot of people said no, they didn’t want to deal with someone who may or may not go into production later on. So I kept asking around and knocking on doors until I finally met my current manufacturer. He liked how much interest I had in learning, so he said yes. We started working together the next day on the first prototypes.
Why was it so important to keep sourcing and production in Turkey?
Turkey has a very rich and developed leather industry and very talented craftsman who have been working with leather for generations. Being from Istanbul and producing in a small atelier really allows me to be hands on every step of the way. I know every single person who touch each piece, who hand stitch the details and hand paint the edges. I also like that I am able to bring a part of my background into the brand.
How do you split your time between New York and Istanbul?
I’ve been back and forth a lot, which my friends and family there are very happy about! I was there for a production trip in December that extended until February so my schedule is very unpredictable. Both cities feel like home, so I don’t mind it at all.
What inspired the mix and match basis of your design concept?
I always had a thing for bags, I think it’s so interesting how a simple item can just change the whole vibe of a look. Over the years, I invested in many bags and at the end I always found myself either not having the same excitement, or I simply couldn’t wear them because they fell apart. We are all constantly evolving, so I think what we carry with us everyday should be able to do the same. I wanted to try a different approach and create something that was really well made, but also gave people the ability to change their mind and try something new without buying a whole new bag.
Aside from quality leather, what other fabrications are offered in the different styles?
Currently the full collection is available in leather for the base bags and exotic skins, fur and suede for the add-ons. We’re going to be introducing different and exciting materials each season.
What were some of the key components you considered when designing each of the four silhouettes?
I am very inspired by simple geometric shapes, so that is always the starting point when I design. This creates a clean and solid base to then start playing with ways to deconstruct the shapes to introduce the mix & matchable components. I always think about functionality and ease of use, if something doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s out. My goal is to give each piece more than one life, like the Tote bag with the removable pouches that become wristlets, or the envelope pouch of the Box bag that can be used as a small cross body with the same strap.
Which color and style from SS17 would you recommend to someone just starting their luxury handbag collection?
Tough question! I would recommend going with a timeless color and a smaller size because it’s easy to transition those bags from day to night. So either the Box in Off White or the Mini in Night Black. You can always come back and add more, which is the fun part.
How would you describe your personal style?
I keep things pretty monochromatic and simple. Lots of black in the winter and white in the summer. It’s easy, with a slight edge.
What’s next for the brand?
Currently our focus is on experimenting with ways to bring newness to the handbag category each season.