I recently did some panelist duties for the Independent Handbag Awards with Emily Blumenthal. I felt that this crazy pressure to do well since this Award will open a designer's world to endless possibilities. You'll be meeting the key players in the world of media, design and angel networks. Past winners became head designers of brands like Topshop or have their products sold in Bloomingdales, so this is a BIG DEAL.
After the my panelist stint, I learned a lot of things that can increase an entry's chance of winning. Here are my tips...
1) Have the guts to just join. I know of a lot of bag designer's who have terrific designs or sometimes the best I've seen but they decided not to submit any entry. There reasons were very miniscule , like they couldn't afford a professional photographer or the were only using a leather scraps. There were entries that were not taken by a professional photographer, but their design had potential, so people gave them a shot to advance as a finalist. The designers I knew thought they weren't honed enough or they were just too tough of themselves.. As a designer myself, we can be our worst critics. But sometimes you just have to shut that voice of self-doubt in our heads and show the best that we have. Because it might be the best entry submitted. If it is not, just give yourself a pat in the back and praise yourself for having the guts to move forward. There is seriously nothing to lose, when you just have to upload that entry. Any headway to move your career forward is worth celebrating about even if the results are not how we wanted it to be.
2) Try to take the best photo that you can, I know it negates what I stated earlier. This may seem like a simple thing, but this is the first thing that we will see and will make us decide whether you can make the preliminaries or not. If you can't afford a photographer or do photoshop for last minute edits, hope is not lost. They may prefer high resolution photos, but some judges will understand that not all designers can afford to take good photos. If you have a pro-camera, use it. But try your best to find a white background, if you have white walls in your room, use the white corner and lay a white fabric of the floor where you can lay the bag. Natural light is always the best and try your best not to have shadows in your bag.
My other suggestion is to reach out to student photographers or photographers in Model Mayhem . You may loan some of your designs for them to use for their portfolios in exchange for product shots, or reach out to student photographers. They can give you quality shots for 1/8 the price.
3) Save your budget, just don't use a model anymore. Do not ask your gorgeous friend to model to carry your bag for the photo. Honestly, you might have a better chance laying the bag in a white blanket or white floor than having a model carry it. Why? Models take the attention away from the bag. I was honestly distracted by one entry where the model had really hairy arms. Other panelists, we're distracted by hangnails, dry nails or dirty nails.
4) Do not upload your entries on the very last minute. The Handbag Designer website crashed on the date of its deadline. This may delay your uploads, overwhelm the judges or your entry may not upload at all. The earlier the better, judges will be kinder and happier during the first set of bags.
5) Make sure your photos really uploaded. There were many empty entries. My guess was that they were uploading in haste.
6) Update your social media (Instagram, Twitter or Facebook) or please try to have one at least. The preliminary panel are very adept in social media, and they can check your social media profiles instantly. They might not be very impressed about the entry that you have submitted; but, when they are crazy about one of your designs posted on your social media, they will vote for you or convince other judges to vote for you too.
Some of the panelists are buyers for major retailers like Bloomingdales, even if you didn't get the majority of the votes, you just might impress a buyer and score a retailer. That is a big thing for designers- you still end up as a winner in the end.
7) Have a website, and update it once you have submitted your entry. This is crucial when you're applying for "The Most Socially Responsible Handbag" or "The Best Green Handbag" categories. We will do our due diligence whether your entry truly falls into this category. Also make sure that your website is not under construction. I remember seeing a beautiful handbag, but we scrapped her entry because her website was under construction.
8) Since most of the preliminary panelist are social media influencers, some of them actually voted a certain bag because it would go well with certain outfits. For the sake of mathematical probabilities, try to design a bag that would go well with multiple outfits.
9) Ostentatious styles are risky, no matter how beautiful. It's only good when your judges are mostly magazine stylists, but buyers, influencers and etc might not like the fur bag you made that is the same color as Trump's hair. As hard as it is, try to balance creativity, marketability and utility in a design.
10) Have one main photo of the bag, which occupies 80 percent of the frame. put additional photos of the bag around the main photo only when it has a super special features that cannot be seen.
I hope these tips helped designers who are thinking of joining. Feel free to email me if you have more questions or if you need advice.