How to Start the Perfect Handbag Collection, According to Tara Zadeh

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Tara Zadeh
Photo: Courtesy of Anya Sandul

With the New Year ushering in feelings of renewal and regrowth – and the much-anticipated show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo arriving on Netflixwe’re eyeing our closets with fresh resolve. No longer satisfied by the tide of trends that have filled our shelves to the brim with handbags that we’ve barely used, we’re ready to tackle a more grown-up and sophisticated collection with smart styles for every occasion. But where to start?

With her own carefully curated handbag collection, designer Tara Zadeh is the perfect person to guide the way. Not only is her eponymous brand responsible for the distinct and unforgettable ‘Azar’ clutch, still one of our favorite “It” bags, but her fantastic personal sense of style and keen eye for design also offer a unique opportunity to tap her expertise. In this exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, Zadeh shares tips and tricks on collecting, protecting, and preserving your precious items – and more.

Tara Zadeh collection
Photo: Courtesy of Tara Zadeh

We were so intrigued to read about your personal handbag collection, which features both vintage and new designs. When and why did you start collecting handbags?
I was 14 or 15, and started with pieces from the bazaar in Iran. I had some designer pieces as well – I remember having a Dior ‘Saddle’ bag when I was 16, so it was a mix of bazaar and market finds as well as designer pieces from around the world. I think I must’ve been 17 when I started heavily collecting and paying more attention to what was happening naturally.

How has your collection come to inform your present-day design work?
Some pieces you find in bazaars look almost like jewelry, and the metal fittings on my ‘Azar’ shape have this element, too. It makes you look like you’re wearing a bracelet around your wrist. It dresses up any outfit so easily. The bazaar pieces you find are often like this.

What are some of the prized bags in your collection?
There are some from Thailand that I really love; they’re all hand-woven and have pom-poms, and were made much before pom-poms became fashionable. They’re very intricately designed and very small, little micro bags. I also love some that I got from Turkey, which have hard exteriors and are embellished on the inside – the embellishments are beautiful.

Have you ever spent a long time hunting down a specific design? Do you have any stories to share about finding a “Holy Grail” item?
I really wanted a bracelet bag – a shape that I couldn’t find – which is why I started designing handbags. That’s when I designed the ‘Azar’, a piece that looks like a bracelet, with the handle sitting on the arm. This style didn’t exist before.

Where do you source your vintage pieces? How do you like to style them?
I travel a lot, so vintage stores are my first go-to. There are some amazing vintage shops in New York – Brooklyn, specifically – and some really cool ones in London and Ibiza, where I recently got a really cool jacket from the 1950s. I like to add a vintage piece to my outfits to make them individual; they complement who I am as a person and make each look unique and authentic.

When did you start consciously start preserving and taking care of your collection?
I’ve never gotten rid of items that I own, so I preserve them in this sense. I take care of them when I wear them, of course. I also have a lot of things that my mum gave me, some huge belts that have come back into fashion. I also have all these vintage pieces by Comme des Garçons, Lanvin, and Jean Paul Gaultier. My grandmother also gave me some pieces – I have two gorgeous vintage Chanel bags that she passed down to me.

Photo: Courtesy of Aurelien Caoudal

How do you store your most precious items?
They’re sort of everywhere! Some are in boxes that I haven’t seen in years, but I know are there. Others are in my house since I’m using them at the moment – the truth is there’s no specific way. I’ve moved around so much that my most precious items are all over the world.

For what occasions do you break out your most exclusive pieces?
Whatever I’m feeling at the time! It comes naturally. Sometimes, one bag feels more special than another, and this reverses on other days.

Of your own designs, which are your favorites to carry?
I think the ‘Azar’ and the’ Ziba’, especially in the evenings. I like the ‘Roya’ during the day, and the ‘Roshan’ when I need to carry my laptop.

What do you do when one of your bags becomes damaged?
I send it back to the factory in Spain, and they repair it and send it back.

Some brands appreciate greatly in value over time, making handbags a worthy investment. Do you have any advice for women who want to start investing in a handbag collection, but don’t know where to start?
I think you have to have an eye for it, and be sensible – if you have a feel for bags and fashion, it’ll come naturally.

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