Inés Figaredo Is Watching You

Meet the Spanish designer whose Surrealist bags stare back

“I am a woman full of secrets,” said Spanish accessories designer Inés Figaredo. Her work can best be described as true Surrealism—this is not a reductive form of what Schiaparelli and Dali did, nor is it nonsense for the sake of whimsy. She takes Surrealism seriously, thereby creating works that are charming, clever, eerie, elegant, and desirable. Bags come in the shapes of candy apples, feet, telephones, doll heads, and cages (complete with prisoners inside). Some more “normal” shapes are adorned with gold feather pens, or working carnival carousels. Her most notable emblems are realistic glass eyes, which either cover bags monstrously, or appear as a pair, with all of the symbolism of the billboard for Doctor T. J. Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby—always open, always watching. “The human parts are very important. And they all come from the unconscious, Surrealism,” she said of the various body parts that adorn her designs. (Her upcoming collection, titled “Bohemia”, will include ears.) “For me, they become something.”

Indeed, Figaredo, with her bubblegum pink hair and almost mystical way of speaking, is the embodiment of her brand. So much so that it’s hard to believe that this woman, whose logo is a blood-red teardrop, is a former maritime broker with a law degree. Nothing about this cerebral designer screams “corporate life,” but Figaredo is full of contradictions.

For instance, Figaredo thinks of the bag as a container, yet the way she approaches design seems unbound. Her bags clearly have functionality in mind, but her concepts come from the subconscious—a place that does not always provide the most realistic ideas. However, every aspect of her wares has been thought out. The interiors, most of which are lined in leather, are easily accessible, while chain straps on smaller bags can be hidden inside, transforming them into clutches. Quite a bit of time and effort goes into sourcing the right materials, the best materials, and making sure they work for the product. Despite more expensive production costs, all of the metals and leathers are made ethically.

As for those glass eyes, Figaredo admits that finding the right collaborator was no small feat. “It was a huge challenge for all of us,” she said. Although she would not give details about her current supplier (other than to say that the eyes are made with a patented medical technique of mixing glass, porcelain, and an image of the human iris, and that they are exclusive to her), she did note that there was a bit of trial and error involved. In a twist, the best way to evoke otherworldly artistic expression is through realism. “We needed to make the eyes more practical, because they were going to be on a handbag—they need to talk, in a way. They need have a connection with the audience, [so the audience] can feel their humanity.” The end result unites innovation with the arts. “All of [the eyes] reflect a different personality. And putting all of them together in a handbag, it’s really moving. It is touching, because we have achieved what we were searching for.”

Over the past six years, Figaredo’s business has expanded in ways she never expected, and she will be launching a trunk show with the online luxury retailer Moda Operandi on July 19. “This wasn’t born with the idea of selling [a product] at all. I didn’t mind selling, but I didn’t know that this was sellable,” she said. “This was born from a very internal need for communication, and that’s why the pieces are so emotional, so well taken care of. Suddenly, you see that the audience is willing to buy you—the market is there waiting for you.”

It is not hard to see why Figaredo has had such success and positive feedback. The construction of the designs is something to behold—functionality in fashion is so scarce sometimes that is really is astounding when a designer takes the customer into account. On an artistic level, the designs come across as not only fun, but also sincere. There is certainly a bit of commentary on the way we watch fashion and fashionable people, only to have a bag that watches back. The idea seems to resonate with many. “It is very rewarding to see how the client, the audience, [responds to] our pieces,” Figaredo said. “They understand the intellectual and the artistic point of view, and they connect with it.”

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