Sunday, August 3, 2008



July 29th, Garment District, NYC

Words, Pics by Judith Ecochard

When we were in Berlin, we grabbed a few hours and strolled the Premium trade show of the-for the most part- German contemporary wear and accessories collections.

In the “Red Carpet” section, were handfuls of fashion lines we had missed on the runway-and an accessory brand that had outward European flair polished up with American practicality.

The booth for this plush napa leather/patent leather line, “Gretchen” –was full of inventive and colorful clutches, totes, gloves, belts, and top handled and chain handbags-and PEOPLE. The place was packed.

So we made a quick look-see and cleared out to spare our toes from being stepped on.

Fast forward, we returned across the pond-and serendipitously, got an invite to preview, meet and greet Anne-Christen Kirsten Hofman and her partner, Michael Georg Schmitt of Gretchen-the very photographic team that designs and manages the soon to be huge here-haulers.

THE COLLECTION: “I design simple and pure shapes-with a focus on shapes not bling,” the congenial Hofman explained.

Produced in Italy, “where there is very good leather and metal hardware” Gretchen proffers multiple fashion forward options, size-wise- that are inspired by a few central design themes-and then switched on… motif-wise- in every spatial dimension a modern gal would need.

The half moon shape fan clutch was Gretchen’s “first” big success. The eye-catching formation (Art Deco-ish) –that was expanded to 3 other “Actress” sizes by our count- was eventually joined by our top pick thematic haulers-the “Swing” collection (basket weave totes and handbags with solid gold chains and handles), plus…the “Jazz” bunch, and the “Opera” - with exact piping details and pleats.

These are bags you want to reach out and touch. And the colors are phenomenal with natural neutrals that’ll work forever (beige, brown cognac etc)…and fun shades like pastels (“I look for colors that work with leather”)…i.e. a tropical palm tree green, and lavenders.

Additionally, all straps are adjustable, the inner pockets are plentiful and thoughtfully placed to banish archaeological digs for keys (there are rings!)-And the stylish logo is regulated to the fabric of the bags’ inner lining.

FACTOIDS: Gretchen was named by a “search for something different.” It’s an old German name that is popular in the States.

Hofman’s great grandfather started a luxe glove manufacturing company where descendant Hofman began her professional training, “gaining great knowledge of materials.” (Gloves, she predicts, are making a fashionable comeback. We always don a pair when riding the subway!).

TBA: Wallets, padded linings for laptops.