Image courtesy Elise Durbecq & Gillian Tozer
Interview

Elise Durbecq & Gillian Tozer

05.28.15

The gorgeous, bright and colorful handbag line, TRUSS is designed by Elise Durbecq and Gillian Tozer. Opening Ceremony alums, the girls partnered together to create a handbag line inspired by the traditional structured, market bags they discovered during a trip to Mexico. The bags are as vibrant as their Oaxacan origin – the town is rich with culture and the artisan-led tradition of weaving is beautifully applied to the modern bags Tozer and Durbecq design. One bag takes an entire day to create and the rhombus pattern adorns each bag in a variety of colorways, all thoughtfully woven together. TRUSS’ artful combination of craftsmanship and design have pushed the brand into the industry forefront (and they have GP’s stamp of approval!) and have positioned their brand as one to watch.  

Interview

Can you tell us about the origin of Truss?

Oaxaca is known for its weaving, particularly textiles, palm, carpets, and of course market bags. Originally the bags were weaved with palm but as plastic became more accessible the artisan switched materials to make a stronger product. While visiting Oaxaca, we fell in love with the totes and could picture them being a part of every girl’s life back in New York. We just needed to find a way to finesse the product while giving back to the community.

How did the two of you meet? What were you doing before launching Truss?

We met while working at Opening Ceremony in New York. Elise was working in store design and Gillian was managing content for online. Our strong backgrounds in fashion and our interest in design has certainly helped us when creating the product but it was the potential for social impact that essentially kicked off the project.

What are your ties to Oaxaca?

Elise has been visiting Oaxaca since she was little Elise! She has family there and has always loved the folkloric arts the region fosters.

Is it true it takes one bag an entire day to weave? Is this tough for production overall?

It is! And that’s the very skilled weavers! And yes, absolutely, production is a big focus for us. It’s obviously very important that we deliver to stores on time! But production is also very personal: we’re in constant contact with women and men who we work with in Oaxaca. We also have to respect the production cycles, the nature of the weaving technique and the time it takes.

Were you surprised at the fashion community’s immediate support for your brand?

From the very beginning, we believed in the beauty and function of the product, it really spoke for itself. We knew we were onto something when we couldn’t even walk down Broadway without someone stopping us to ask where we got our bag from. Opening Ceremony was not only the natural first choice for us, they were after all family, but the ultimate choice! We’re eternally grateful for their ongoing support.

Besides an amazing product, to what do you owe the success of the brand so far?

We’ve placed a lot of emphasis on creative collaborations that are not only exciting but give us the opportunity to work with many of our creatives. We call these collaborations TRUSS X and have so far collaborated with New York photographers Brayden Olson, Meghan McNeer, and Andre Herrero and videographers Kings in the Back Row. Stay tuned for more!

How do you see women using the bags? Who is your ideal customer?

TRUSS totes are super versatile—you can take them to the beach (they’re waterproof), to the office, away with you for the weekend e.t.c —so there’s no single use for them and no one client either. We know that the men and women (we’re getting bigger with the boys too!) who buy TRUSS value great design and function but also have social impact in mind.

How do you see the brand growing?

Right now, we’re focusing on product development. The wealth and talent that exists within Oaxaca seems boundless! We’re looking at new shapes, new colors, and new materials. 

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