NEW YORK (MainStreet) — "Chic yet street" is how Jason Stalvey describes the designs in his fledgling luxury accessory collection, and chic they are: duffel bags, baseball hats, camera straps — all made of luxe, exotic skins. Blankets made of female mink and trimmed in black matte alligator. Prices ranging from $2,000 to $25,000.
Luxe indeed, but Stalvey is a newcomer to the fashion industry, entering the flamboyant world of runways and fashion showrooms by the atypical route of a science and medical background.
Nor was his inspiration typical. Stalvey's journey began with his own search for the perfect alligator duffel bag. A must for everyone, no?
"When you live in New York City, you need a bag to carry around gym clothes," says Stalvey, a South Carolina native who lives in New York City.
But really, his story traces back a little bit further. Stalvey describes himself as someone who has always been keen on nice bags, and as a child had a habit of storing items in very unique and very proper containers.
"I was always that kid who kept things compartmentalized," Stalvey says. "I had a special container for my Crayolas. Everything was completely organized. I had antique boxes. Toys had their own compartments. I was always organized and detail oriented."
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Stalvey's says his penchant for stylish storage continued as an adult, noting that he uses trunks in his apartment to store blankets. In other words, they're not merely folded and shoved in a drawer or on the top of a closet.
When his search for just the right alligator duffel proved fruitless, Stalvey decided to design one of his own. With the help of some friends in the fashion industry, Stalvey set about studying how bags are made, educating himself on every detail.
"I didn't know a two-way zipper from a one-way zipper. Friends pointed me in the right direction," Stalvey says.
Stalvey found that the biggest problem was connecting with factories and tanneries where he could have his products crafted on a premium level. Most of the tanneries are controlled by large fashion houses.
But break in he did, and now Stalvey continues running a medical practice while managing his luxury accessories business from his apartment. His products are all made in New York City.
"What was important to me was to make this luxe product, but also have a little more street feel to it," Stalvey says. "Women unwrap their alligator purse and take it to dinner. They spend a ton of money on it and barely use it. I wanted to design bags for men and women that you can use on a daily basis and, as far as function, I don't want it very formal. You work hard for that money. I don't want to make bags that you just wrap up and put away."
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As for designing the alligator duffel he'd long been searching for — that too has been accomplished.
"I did create the perfect duffel," Stalvey says. "It was very, very satisfying. And once you do that, you want to just keep creating. It's infectious."
Stalvey's accessories business has grown organically since designing that first duffel. Private customers via word of mouth. Social media. Custom designs. Orders through his website.
Now, Stalvey is on the cusp — gaining more recognition and attention. He was profiled recently by Forbes and is receiving email constantly from people wanting to come look at his products.
The question is where to go from here. Continue selling privately? Or make the leap to full-on retail. Barneys? Or perhaps Bergdorf?
"It started with eight pieces as a men's collection. Now it's grown into men's and women's and entry-level home furnishings. It's getting bigger and bigger. If it makes sense financially to have this business take over, it will become full time. But so far I've been lucky, being able to have them both, which is nice," he says, referring to his medical practice and luxury line. "It's a great left-brain, right-brain balance."
— By Mia Taylor