1. Tell us about the story and inspiration behind Play Purse.
When I was little I only ever wanted to go to the gift shop, never the actual museum. And when I was six I stole a Troll Doll from someone at school and told my mum that I had found it at the bottom of my bed when I woke up in the morning. She seemed to believe me. I was totally drawn to novelties and souvenirs, vending machine toys and cracker prizes. That aesthetic has stayed with me and has been the inspiration behind Play Purse.
Play Purse started off as No. 5 in an ongoing design collection called Item No (itemno.co.uk) but broke off as its own project. Item No. 4 is a watch-strap style leather cuff printed with the picture of a toy watch and was the precursor to Play Purse. The watch was among my collection of toy novelties underneath a pile of beaded toy purses.
2. What made you decide to reinvent the Play Purse for grown ups?
Probably because I wanted to have one myself!
3. What’s your most treasured possession?
4. You’ve kept the quality and production process of Play Purse true to the originals. Tell us more about what that entails.
I spent a lot of time buying all the beaded toy purses I could find on Etsy and Ebay etc, I have a quite a large collection now which I use as reference for patterns, colours, fabrics and design inspiration. Maybe I should open a museum! Play Purse took about 18 months of development angst, to-ing and fro-ing samples from the manufacturer. The oval shape beads didn’t exist so a mould had to be made, the fabric was not in fashion and was really hard to find. Although some toy purses can still be found in a handful of sweetshops I think it has been at least 10 years since they were actually manufactured.
5. What’s the strangest thing you have in your Play Purse?
A 1960’s Christmas cracker toy.
6. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I’ve got a book coming out!
I co-wrote and designed a children’s book to be published in September 2015 by Thames and Hudson, called I Can Make Dolls Clothes. It’s a book of easy to follow designs and patterns to make fashionably cool dolls clothes and accessories.
7. Why do you think people are so drawn to kitsch? Are we all ‘big kids’ these days?
The description of something as kitsch is sometimes dismissive, or considered as bad taste so I don’t really like that word. I am interested in design with a story or twist, something that can be emotive rather. One of my favourite quotes is from Miuccia Prada: “Nostalgia is a very complicated subject for me. I’m attracted by nostalgia but I refuse it intellectually”.
8. What 5 things can’t you live without?
1. Instagram – it is totally addictive and has been really instrumental in growing interest in Play Purse
2. PG Tips
4. Cool socks. Especially with heels or sandals.
5. Pantone 805c – it’s in between orange and red and is a little bit fluoro.
9. Which style icon would you most like to see carrying a Play Purse?
Solange Knowles, I love her quirky style.
10. What’s next for Play Purse, are there any areas you’re hoping to explore further?
Play Purse is growing up even more. The next collection includes an even bigger size and one with a strap. Funnily enough, a lot of people have asked if I’m going to make the small toy size, so they are going to come back to life too. Then I will have provided myself with my own childhood fantasy of having a never ending supply of novelty knick-knacks…
Chloë Owens & Badger