Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
In 2017, the Amsterdam-based creator Elza Wandler launched her namesake fashion label, Wandler, with a line of handbags. Architectural in design and bold in color, the styles gained attention for their unexpected dimensions, unique closures, and attention to high-quality details. Just two years later, these facets translated to footwear, revealed through a collection of shapes and hues reminiscent of fashion in the 1990s. Last fall, the brand expanded beyond bags and shoes to debut a capsule collection of leather and denim trousers, with elegant, functional pieces seen in go-to colors and washes.
Most recently, for International Women’s Day, Wandler harnessed the power of accessories and collaborated with the Swedish-American artist and activist, Michele Pred, to produce purses focused on the subject of equal pay. In her “Power of the Purse” series, Pred spotlights the politically-charged language of today’s female activists, reminding the world of the ongoing gender pay gap.
To highlight this issue, Pred collaboratively created for Wandler two new purses with 100 percent of profits being donated to WOMEN INC—an organization that strives for equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender and sex. Seen on the brand’s notable Hortensia bag, as well as its recently launched Teresa bag, the slogan “EQUAL PAY” lights up. Created by using a battery-powered electroluminescent wire, and a small electronic driver that can be set to constant color or flash mode, both styles remind the carrier and the world of the need for equality now.
Timed to its release, Wandler shared with Whitewall how her label balances minimalism and extravagance, which organizations it partners with for a greener future, and what one bag she always recommends customers carry.
WHITEWALL: Why did you initially establish Wandler in 2017?
ELZA WANDLER: I feel like there isn’t enough time in life to be neglecting what you truly want. After collecting all the knowledge and experience that I could in fashion and branding, I finally decided to start a brand under my own name to create a brand - and in turn a world, that is my own. It was all about timing and the right things blending and coming together at the same time. But I also believe that surrounding yourself with great people and being willing to learn from others is also an important part of the process.
WW: Did you feel there was a gap in the market that the brand could fill?
EW: As for the design direction, I felt there weren't a lot of brands out there that offered bags with a fine balance of clean yet bold designs. Luxury leather goods are the main focus, for 2022 it’s not where it ends. Wandler is forever dynamic and doesn’t identify as a traditional fashion brand. I have an intuitive approach toward design and direction that allows Wandler to continuously evolve—adding more pieces to the puzzle and further building the brand. Wandler constantly transforms into the next version of itself, pushing its one-of-a-kind style code to new heights and to new categories.
WW: How would you describe Wandler to a newcomer?
EW: I would describe Wandler as being clear in function and architectural in shape. Every design embodies a modern approach toward femininity and is elegant with unexpected dimensions and dynamic use of color. Flirting with minimalism as much as extravagance, Wandler seeks to contribute to the joy of finding one’s unique style.
WW: What is included in the Pre-Spring 2022 collection?
EW: Wandler stands for femininity, rounded shapes, and elegance, but this season, we’ve translated that into more square shapes, as seen in the Teresa Bag. It’s rectangular and boxy in shape but feels very soft and buttery and by constructing the edges folded the feeling is round and feminine, like Wandler's signature. Made in Italy from premium Italian leather, it’s a perfect sleek bag to wear every day and will never go out of style.
WW: Recently, you moved beyond producing just bags and footwear and launched denim and leather trousers. Why?
EW: I think it was just a matter of time before Wandler embarked into this new territory. Leather trousers have been a staple in my wardrobe for a long time now, but I have been struggling to find more exciting styles with a great fit and colors. I feel this was the impulse we needed to make the first step into the next level of evolving the brand. During this transition, it made a lot of sense for us to add denim styles to our portfolio as well.
WW: What do you like about this new territory?
EW: I love the synergy between color, leather, and denim. In my mind, these new styles had to be comfortable and functional yet complementary to the body, as I believe it is hard to find a style that masters this equilibrium. Parallel to this, illustrating my love for fine detail was a key point for the new collection. This comes to life through the intricate leather loops, square pockets, and gold and silver buttons.
WW: Aside from fashion, what is your relationship like to the more traditional world of art and design?
EW: The relationship between fashion and art comes naturally to me, looking to the art world for inspiration. I feel there is a connection between both worlds in the way we use forms and colors. Wandler’s mantra is that colors tell the story. I love working on colors as it's such an interesting way of working on visual aesthetics and playing with the great power of color, influencing and expressing moods and feelings. I can imagine that an artist feels the same way in regards to colors when making an art piece.
WW: For Pre-Spring 2022, you gained inspiration from the Italian artist Lina Bo Bardi’s love of nature. Why was this something that inspired you?
EW: Bo Bardi’s Italian heritage combined with her Brazilian life resulted in a refined and exuberant style. She worked beyond the one dimension and utilized her talents across many disciplines, from furniture and costume design to jewelry—her multidisciplinary approach also inspires Wandler’s movements as a brand. The Pre-Spring color palette is influenced by Bo Bardi’s art. Her fold technique was referenced in the detail of the new season Louie mule.
WW: What is your view of the future of fashion in relation to sustainability?
EW: While we put a strong focus on making beautiful high quality designs, as a company and as individuals, we are also mindful of the effect that we have on our environment and natural resources, reducing the carbon footprint wherever possible—thanks to the use of by-product hides and working with trustworthy Italian tanneries, who share similar environmental concerns.
All Italian producers stick to EU regulations and follow the environmental guidelines set; our leathers are LWG certified. every step of the way Wandler creates beautiful pieces that are made with a conscious and ethical mindset. We partnered with TreeSisters in order to give back to the world in ways that restore the global forest. TreeSisters is a non-profit organization that works together with reforestation organizations that support multiple levels of both human and ecological healing. Through our partnership with TreeSisters, a tree will be planted for every 100 Euros spent on our webshop. We only have one planet, so let’s take care of it together.
WW: How have you been thinking about Wandler and its community during the ongoing pandemic?
EW: The most important thing for Wandler’s success is knowing what a woman needs and being aware that these needs are ever-changing. When the pandemic hit, it was hard in the beginning to adapt to our new normal, but my intuitive approach toward design and direction allows Wandler to continuously evolve, adapt, and further build the brand. Transparency and communication were key to making sure we pull through it together with all our factories and wholesale partners—such as Neiman Marcus, Shopbop, and Bergdorf Goodman—who supported us throughout.
WW: How would you describe your personal style? Do you have any go-to pieces?
EW: I’m always drawn to strong silhouettes and nice details, making interesting combinations of material in the same colors or adding a pop of color to your outfit. Apple green is still one of my favorites. I never go out the door without any jewelry. With jewelry, you can really give your outfit that extra personal touch. I’m obsessed with Sophie Joanne’s latest collection!
WW: How does being based in Amsterdam impact your view of fashion and your label?
EW: Amsterdam is such a diverse and international city that there is so much influence and inspiration for me to look at to build something that is truly me. It’s also an amazing city to live in and work in. The vibe is very easy-going and I just love that you can bike to the office. I think that sense of functionality is also reflected in my designs. I just want to make sure if you wear Wandler (if it’s a bag, a shoe, or a pant), you feel comfortable and confident in it.
WW: What is one Wandler item that you can recommend for a gift?
EW: The Hortensia bag is a style that I will always recommend—not only Wandler’s first design, but a spacious yet stylish bag that can be brought out for various different occasions. Having that said, there are so many new styles now that I love. It would be impossible to choose. I love wearing the Penelope because of its versatile ways of wearing it, making it the perfect day and night bag. The Hannah bag is also new, which I can’t wait to wear during summer while having a coffee in the city.