I have spent more than two decades in the beauty industry. With the last 10 years as a proud owner of a high-end nail salon, where I enjoyed creating stunning designs for my clients. In the midst of a successful career, I found myself drawn to another passion – designing women's bags. My love for purses led me to embark on this new journey, driven by a desire to create something deeply meaningful to me.
However, the initial days of designing were challenging. I struggled to conceptualize a unique design that truly reflected my identity. It was only on a chilly, snowy morning, as I sat alone reminiscing about my childhood, that inspiration struck. A video memory on Facebook brought back vivid recollections of my Hmong heritage and the special celebrations of the Hmong New Year. This event held immense significance in my culture.
The Hmong New Year, akin to Christmas, was a time of joy and anticipation, marked by vibrant traditional clothing, intricate handmade jewelry, and the heartwarming tradition of the toss ball, where young men and women would playfully engage to foster connections. It was also a tradition that mothers were the ones who would sew the traditional clothing and buy the jewelry for their daughters to wear for Hmong New Year.
Regrettably, my childhood experiences were devoid of such festivities, as I never had the opportunity to partake in the celebrations or adorn the beautiful Hmong attire. Since my mom passed away when I was 5 years old, I had no traditional clothing or jewelry for New Year. For many years, I would skip the New Year and cry myself to sleep under my worn, smelly blanket. The times that I went to the New Year, I would follow my cousins and friends around all day. When they removed their clothes and jewelry, I would touch them and wish I had some. These events cast a shadow over my childhood memories of the New Year.
Determined to infuse my past with a positive narrative, I integrated the essence of my cherished heritage into my bag designs. I chose the phiaxao and padao to incorporate into my bag designs while keeping them simple but modern. The phiaxao, a representation of the intricate Hmong jewelry, became the symbol for my brand, Tiffanie Lee, while the delicate Hmong embroidery elephant footprint padao pattern was chosen to serve as a lucky charm, infusing hope and positivity into my creations.
As I began sketching the bags, I considered the practicalities of everyday use. I prioritized functionality, ensuring the shoulder bags were not only aesthetically pleasing but also convenient for women of all statures. Understanding the need for easy accessibility, I crafted a flap that wouldn't hinder reaching the bag's bottom and a hassle-free closure for effortless one-handed operation. Moreover, I ensured that the bags were spacious enough to accommodate women's essentials, including bi-fold wallets, without the need to shuffle cards between bags constantly, and cell phones.
With the design finalized, I meticulously handpicked every element, from the inner fabric to the outer leather, and carefully selected complementary accessories and colors. The culmination of this labor of love left me overjoyed and eager to share my creations with the world.