Following the second collection launch of the highly coveted PurseBop Frocks, our Head of Handbags & Accessories, Reece Morgan, sits down with Monika Arora, the fabulous founder of PurseBop, PurseBop Frocks and BopTalk to speak all things dress up, handbags and more.
Monika explains the spark of inspiration behind her iconic designs, discusses the importance of her social channels and how her passion and background in couture transcended into miniature designs fit for a Birkin.
Firstly, we are such huge fans of yours here at Xupes! But for those that have not already heard of your website how would you best describe PurseBop?
PurseBop.com is first and foremost an informational resource for passionate handbag lovers and collectors to read and learn about bags and the industry. But it isn’t just a dry news site, we bring character and whimsy to our stories to make them as engaging as possible. The content is primarily centred around a handful of luxury brands – Hermes, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton – since this is what our community is actively interested in and I really mean community, because that’s what PurseBop is. What links us is our passion for handbags, but it’s really become a platform for creative expression and camaraderie over the years.
The reach and interaction you have is incredible, how did the idea of PurseBop first emerge and did you initially expect to have such an impact on handbag and accessory enthusiasts from across the globe?
Truthfully, PurseBop started as a passion project. It began at a time when there was a professional void in my life. I had just sold my luxury denim business and was in search of the next chapter of my life. I began writing little stories about my days but with my handbags as the main characters. I couldn’t tell you how I stumbled upon this format, but the creativity seemed to just come naturally.
While I was running the company I had always wanted to start a blog but could never find the time. I started to write slowly but steadily and as I did, I began to dive deeper into the handbag industry to try and understand how the business worked and how these brands are able to forge incredible bonds of loyalty with their customer base. As I began to publish more on the industry, I realised people were starving for information. These brands are shrouded in mystique and I wanted to try and lift the veil of secrecy for the rest of us that aren’t on the inside. We’ve since published a number of purchasing guides and added writers who specialise in different brands or regions. I can confidently say that we’re now one of the primary – if not the primary – authority on the luxury handbag market.
As I was building out the blog, I found myself loving the photography aspect more and more, so I started showing off more of my images on Instagram under the @PurseBop handle. I realised the Instagram influencer world, particularly in the luxury handbag sector, was a pretty dull place. Everyone’s pictures looked the same – it was the same bags with the same angles and the same poses, but I decided to take the same approach with the photography as I did with the writing. Entirely organically, our accounts @PurseBop and @BopTalk – where we feature the bags and stories of our community members – quickly caught fire. As I said before, people were just starving for something new. I still try and personally respond to as many comments and messages that I can, and this engagement has been absolutely critical for our growth. Unlike much of the rest of IG, our community knows there are real people on the other side of the handles, and we have an absolute blast going back and forth with them. And it’s not a one-way street, we learn so much from our followers who are out there across the world, in the stores, bringing back news and juicy tidbits.
Since founding PurseBop Frocks, what has the response been like?
My Frocks concept is publicly only six months old, but for me, it’s the culmination of a decade of planning, dreaming and finally, now, execution. As with anything new or foreign there are mixed reactions. There are many that have embraced the concept right out of the gates and are on their third or fourth Frocks and then there are the skeptics who still can’t even fathom the idea. With anything in fashion, or life for that matter, everyone is entitled to their opinions and preferences. If my concept is not for everyone, so be it. The Frocks are playful and whimsical, and some aren’t ready to concede that luxury can be either of those.
In fashion there will always be leaders and followers. Unfortunately, some people need a permission slip to be able to try something out of the box. I believe those people are watching and waiting until they gather enough information to make it right or acceptable. But that doesn’t bother us at all – we aren’t going anywhere! The overall response has been incredible and the games have just begun. The Frocks really are an innovation in the accessories landscape, we’re not settling for “more of the same.”
How did you come up with the idea of playing dress-up with your handbag? You are certainly the first to do so.
As children we play dress-up with dolls... I personally was a Barbie fanatic, I had the Barbie house and the car and yes, even Ken. I also loved the Mrs. Beasley doll and of course had my cabbage patch phase. PurseBop Frocks allow us the space to reconnect with that childhood joy. I don’t think luxury needs to be stuffy, why shouldn’t we be able to dress up our bags? Just because no one’s ever done it before? Who cares! This is an idea I’ve had tucked somewhere in my fashion brain for many years, just waiting for the right time.
Tell me more about the design process and how you cultivate ideas on aesthetic and practicality of the Frocks?
The first collection of the denim jacket Frocks was a tribute to my previous denim company. The inspiration for the designs came from my successful styles, and I even kept some of the same names. Kohinoor Diamond, for example, was my top selling design. The first denim jacket Frock is essentially a miniature version of the jackets we used to produce.
It took months and months of prototyping to get the exact tailored fit for each style. This is probably what I take the most pride in. Each frock fits the bag the same way we would want an article of clothing to fit us. The jackets have shoulder pads, lining and other intricate details that make the Frocks couture in every sense of the word.
In terms of their practicality, that was a secondary consideration. One of the things I love about luxury is that it never has to justify itself, and I don’t feel the need to do so with the Frocks. But since you ask, our customers constantly tell us they think they’re perfect for protecting their treasures during travel or the hustle and bustle of city life. We took immense care in selecting fabrics and dyes that wouldn’t harm or damage the bags at all, and that effort has been rewarded by our customers’ confidence in how the Frocks are constructed.
Do you ask for any advice from the PurseBop community when developing new ideas? I would assume their feedback is invaluable to you as a designer.
In the initial development stages I kept the designs and concepts top-secret…only me and my team knew what we were up to. But now that we’ve launched, we maintain a continual dialogue with our customers and they’re thrilled to share feedback and offer suggestions —we’re in the process of bringing some of those to reality. Stay tuned!
You have recently launched the latest collection of Frocks which is super exciting, we love them! What is different about this collection to the first? We noticed there are now capes, dresses and even more jacket styles.
Just as a fashionista needs different outfits to match different moods and occasions, we think our bags do too. The Capes are stately and sophisticated, the Frocks are playful and oh so pretty —and to continue the spirit and success of the jackets, we introduced white denim with the Palm Beach Frock and my personal favourite, Club Love, in vivid hot pink. We also officially launched jackets tailored for the Hermès Kelly. Although the original fit worked for both Birkins and Kellys we found our customers wanted to experience the same custom precision fit. These KR Frocks allow for the hardware and strap to remain functional even with the jacket on. This is an important detail for the Hermès aficionado and an example of how we deliver on customer suggestions and requests.
Another new development which we’re really excited about is the inclusion of Frocks for Chanel. We use the same precision tailoring process but for the Classic Flap sizes. The response has been amazing so far!
We saw Heart Evangelista and Jamie Chua #RockTheFrock recently, who else would you love to see accessorise their hand bag with one of your designs?
This is such a tough one. First would be Priyanka Chopra, I think she’s just gorgeous and I love how we’re able to watch her come into her own as a fashionista to be reckoned with. Next would be Rihanna, she has the absolute best taste in bags. Her confidence is incredible, and she’s had a huge influence on my own collection. Until I saw her carry the Chanel Lego clutch I would’ve never seen myself buying it. Now it’s one of the prized items in my bag closet. Last would be the woman I think has the most envious handbag closet on the planet, Kylie Jenner. If you’ve seen it and didn’t get googly-eyed you’re crazy. She’s a fearless fashionista who I could totally see rocking the Frock!
So the possibilities are endless! What is next for Pursebop Frocks and Pursebop brand as a whole?
I won’t give anything away, but rest assured my creative juices are flowing and I cannot wait to embark on the next chapter of Pursebop Frocks and Pursebop! I am truly so lucky to have the support and creative space to make my whimsical dreams come to life. I treasure the PurseBop community that we have built and the valuable and beautiful relationships that have been cultivated from it. How lucky can a girl get?
Finally, a question we ask everyone: what is your dream handbag?
[Laughs] I could write a thesis here because I don’t have just one dream bag and for once I get to answer this question rather than ask!
In my current state of mind, my favourite bag would either be my latest special order Kelly 25cm in Black and Rose Pourpre Chèvre Leather or the one I’m going to reveal very soon in a post on PurseBop.com for my birthday. But the Bubblegum Pink Chèvre Birkin 25cm will always be the holy grail in my handbag armoire. I’m dying for a lime Birkin or Kelly 25cm, but I’ll happily take either.
I also have a small list of holy grail bags I don’t have yet, so bear with me... Should I cross over to the exotic side I would want a Rose Sherazade Kelly 25cm, a beautiful Braise Birkin 25cm or maybe, just maybe a Himalayan in a small size. “Why all 25’s?” you might be asking: because it’s my absolute favourite going-out size and I can always drape a cape over it for some subtle protection.