Misela Reinvents The Handbag

Too few designers take handbags seriously. Like a good pair of shoes, a handbag can tie an entire outfit together—it is not merely a pouch of practical fabric to store your keys, wallet, phone and miscellaneous items. Serra Turker, the founder and creative director of Misela, knows the importance of the handbag, and treats each design like a piece of precious art.

Born and raised in Istanbul, Turker moved to the States to study textiles at the Art & Design institute of Rhode Island. She started Misela after a stint with Tocca’s creative director, Edoardo Mantelli, and she has lived and breathed her company ever since: Misela’s identity is her identity.

Turker’s look book described her autumn/winter ’09 collection as a “reflection of her passion for living.” Each bag was named after the place of its inspiration: Lara at Carlyle, Mina at Chloe ’81 and Lara at Soho House—all of which are based on a minimal, three color palette. There’s an obvious eastern influence in each piece, that’s also infused with a New York sense of high luxury. Turker is at her best when she keeps her designs simple, like the Lara at Soho House Black Pearl design, which is three shades of black combined into an unadorned pattern of parallel lines and rectangles.

The current spring/summer ’09 collection is even more impressive—and certainly more colorful—prominently displaying Turker’s other talent, painting. “Over the years that I have painted, I have come to understand the importance of visual language,” Turker explains, adding that she’s “learned to capture attention within the borders of a two dimensional surface.”

Her bags have become her canvas. The current collection is still minimal, but the patterns are more diverse, the use of colors more complex. Different shades of the same color alternate in a spectrum of shapes—like looking at the reflection of light through a prism. There’s still an emphasis on simple geometrical patterns made of parallel lines, but there’s a greater attention to detail, an even greater representation of Turker’s influences from both New York and Istanbul.

“Even though I have been living in the States for seven years, Istanbul is always a starting point in my creative life as a designer,” Turker says. “I like to differentiate what I carry with me from Istanbul as my past, and what I build up here on my own.”

—Michael Miller