I was thrilled when Abigail Ahern agreed to be featured in this, the debut post for my new column Secret Life Of Bags. A few months back she interviewed me for her blog’s Current Obsession column, so when the time came to launch what I affectionately refer to as S.L.O.B. Abigail was the first person to spring to mind. I loved the idea of nosying inside her handbag and seeing what treasures she totes around.
A stylist turned designer, Abigail has her hand in everything from books and workshops to paint and furniture. The list is very long and it’s still being written. There’s a reason she has done so well – first and foremost, she has no doubt worked incredibly hard. These things don’t just happen. It takes talent, drive, determination, and a very clever mind for business, all of which Abigail has in spades. But what she has also done to great effect is create a recognizable brand with her designs. When I see dark, moody, seductive interiors I can’t help but think of her. All I can say is I really hope Farrow & Ball give her a cut of sales of their Down Pipe paint because surely she’s boosted their numbers! Being a trendsetter, she has of course moved on from Down Pipe and now produces her own line of paints in deep, dark hues with names inspired by the streets of New York – Bleecker, Crosby, Mott.
When I moved back to London from LA four years ago I lived near her Islington shop and I would pop in from time to time and ogle all the good stuff – crazy shaggy palm lamps that look alive, faux flowers that look really bloody real, and of course her charming dog lamps. I imagined that her handbag must be an extension of her shop and her home – eclectic and filled with interesting things! Surely her magpie eye was collecting bits and filling her bag with them everywhere she went! It turns out, I was dead wrong. Abigail is actually extremely disciplined when it comes to her handbag and despite being a maximalist at home, she is in fact a bit of a minimalist when it comes to her bag. Read on to find out why.
S.L.O.B: Do you remember how old you were when you first started to carry a handbag? And do you remember what it looked like?
AA: Honesty, truly no idea. I’m thinking teens when I wanted to look cool and feel grown up and I honestly cannot remember what on earth it looked like.
S.L.O.B: How many handbags do you own, roughly?
AA: Five handbags. The one I use most is my workhorse bag. I take it travelling and schlepping all over the world on buying trips, including hot climes and some rather unglamorous places! I can sling it anywhere and stuff a load of stuff into it – often including lunch as there is never time to stop. My other bags are less hardy but equally loved – a posh animal print one, two clutches for the evening, oh and another general daywear one.
S.L.O.B: How frequently do you change your bag?
AA: Really infrequently. Usually takes me having spilt something nasty on them or worn them right down to make the switch!
S.L.O.B: Do you consider your handbag to be purely functional or also a fashion statement?
AA: Depends, my travelling bag is super functional, but if I’m going to meetings or out to supper I like to make a statement.
S.L.O.B: Are there any designer’s whose handbags you covet?
AA: Absolutely. Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, and Chloe. Please!
S.L.O.B: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever carried around in your bag?
AA: Probably my scented amber rocks. They’re gorgeously fragrant pot pourri lava rocks from Mad Et Len. I know it sounds diva-ish, but if it ever gets too whiffy sometimes (always a risk in hot climes) a quick sniff of these makes me happy again! My bag also often looks like a health food store crossed with a pharmacy – think almonds, brazil nuts, tissues, wipes, handwash, hayfever meds…
S.L.O.B: What do you never leave home without?
AA: My keys, lip gloss, note pad, iPhone and poo bags.
S.L.O.B: For someone whose interiors style is quite maximalist, you seem to be a minimalist in terms of the contents of your bag. Is this intentional?
AA: That’s the traveller in me. I’ve learned to travel light over the years. I’m always finding stuff on travels – samples, brochures, swatches but I intentionally try to limit the amount of rubbish that ends up in my bag.
S.L.O.B: ‘It’ bag or no name bag? Which do you prefer?
AA: An anonymous bag for me, personally.
S.L.O.B: I’m going to assume you edited this bag for the shoot because it is far too tidy! Be honest, what did you remove? Old receipts? Crumbs? Parking tickets?
AA: Actually as odd as this sounds I really didn’t edit much for the shoot. I am OCD about not having much stuff in my bag. Even receipts get taken out at the end of the day and filed away in date order (my accountant finally wore me down, it’s taken him 10 years to get me to this do but now I’m almost religious about it!) A little OTT I know but it’s now so habitual.
My bags are always supersized and I don’t want to lug the weight around, and I can’t stand the routine of having to rummage around for yonks to find stuff. So I usually have this great big bag with next to nothing in it. Kind of smoke and mirrors right, but that is pretty much me to a tee!
Abigail’s bag is from H&M.
Thank you Abigail for letting us visit your beautiful home and for sharing a little bit about the secret life of your bag.
Thanks to Sarah Hogan for the gorgeous photography.