Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
In 2014, fashion veteran Robert Verdi, known for styling celebrities, created accessories company Great Bag Co. Recently, the brand launched a Model M. Limited Edition Artist Series, with every cent of its proceeds benefitting AFRICA’S OUT!—an organization that fights for gender and sexual equality. In partnership with artists Mickalene Thomas, Dustin Yellin, Hank Willis Thomas, and Derrick Adams, the bags are hand-dripped using a hydro-immersion printing technique that is most commonly seen in the automobile and motorcycle industry. For the new collection’s occasion, we spoke with Verdi about Great Bag Co., choosing these four artists, and about process of creating these one-of-a-kind bags.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about your professional life leading up to launching Great Bag Co. in 2014.
ROBERT VERDI: I’ve worked in a variety of aspects in the fashion industry. From my post-graduation days as a jeweler on the bench to styling super stars for the red carpet. In every aspect of my career I’m always thinking about what’s missing… What people could really use… How technology can make our lives better and manufacturing smarter. I was on a collision course with destiny when I designed Model M., marking a paradigm shift in the accessories industry.
WW: Why did you launch the company?
RV: There was a desperate need for an affordable and stylish “It-bag.” For so long, the entire industry had focused on the elite luxury handbag that it neglected to recognize how function, style, and affordability could lead the way.
WW: Tell us about your choice to benefit AFRICA’S OUT! with 100% of the proceeds from the sales of bags going toward the organization. Why that organization?
RV: On a personal note, I do not want to take for granted how much liberty the LGBTI community has in the U.S.A. Even though we still face some social injustice, it does not compare to the tragic circumstances that gay, lesbian, and transgendered men and women face throughout East Africa. In my opinion, Dr. King’s ideal “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is a truth that resonates in all of our lives. It’s unfair to forget what people around the globe still face and it is important to me to participate in moving the needle forward in whatever way I can.
WW: Why were Mickalene Thomas, Dustin Yellin, Hank Willis Thomas, and Derrick Adams the artists chosen to participate in this collaboration?
RV: These are four of the most dynamic, important artists working in the art world today. Their viewpoints are passionate. Their work touches on social ideas—sometime with subtlety and sometimes with moving conviction. Individually and collectively, their artistic voices resonate not only with art collectors and elite museums, but with everybody.
WW: Tell us about the creative process involved in hand-dipping the bags, and using a hydro-immersion printing technique.
RV: It is central to the Great Bag Co. brand story that we maintain a unique sense of discovery and development while designing and delivering new product. The technical process of injection mold manufacturing a tote at this scale is already an industry defining achievement… So it only makes sense to look to new and adventurous techniques like that of hydro-immersion printing. The process (typically reserved for the automobile industry) involves “wrapping.” Model M. is a unique image by hand-dipping the bag into a pool of water and transferring a specially designed print to its surface. Though the research and design phase of this process was difficult and never-before-done, we achieved in the end a stunning new method of print production we are excited to share with our customers and community.
WW: What is your favorite aspect of the collection?
RV: Each of these Limited Edition totes, much like a painting or real piece of fine art, is unique, which is hard to achieve in a manufacturing process. Placement of the prints is unique to each bag, making no two bags exactly alike—magnifying the idea that each is an original work of art.