Agnes Baddoo was born and raised in New York City from a Ghanaian father and a Jamaican and Caribbean mother. Like many East Coasters that visit the magical and sunny state of California for the first time, Agnes was hooked. Her Afro-Caribbean roots and NYC upbringing cultivated her unique style and perspective out west that people have grown to love and admire in the world of fashion and craftsmanship.
When did you first recognize what style was?
My parents and many family members presented themselves with great style, integrating timeless classics with their own spin. They encouraged that in me pretty early on. Quality versus quantity, discovering and revisiting styles that work for you, not going too deep into trends, etc. Also, growing up in NYC and attending an international playgroup, it was common to see people dressed in their national dress, so I was used to reading people by the way they presented themselves – which had nothing to do with fashion, per se, but individual style.
You’ve been in fashion for over 20 years, how did you begin?
I started my first real job for American ELLE assisting the original Publication Director (who was once the original designer of French ELLE and launched the magazine in the US). Most fashion magazines are oriented around the Editor in Chief/Fashion Director, in this era of ELLE every single thing that happened and was printed in that magazine passed through his office, basically, via my desk. I saw firsthand all the components of putting together a magazine as well as editing film, cropping shots, laying out pages, organizing shoots, encouraging and soothing creatives, etc. It was the most challenging and fantastic entry job. From that desk I determined that the most suitable job for me and my interests in travel and fashion would be – freelance, fashion editor, under contract; i.e., all the good work, travel, with none of the interoffice politics. From there I moved to Paris assisting editors first with ELLE then Conde Nast, back to NYC assisting, then styling. Then LA. Magazines, commercials, music videos, indie films…Yay, I haven’t had a full-time, office job since.
What’s changed and what’s stayed the same in your eyes?
From day one, ELLE always promoted healthy, iconic, women of all ethnicities. And there was a timeless ELLE style to a lot of the styling that defied dated trends. That’s why so many images from that era are timeless. And many of their fashion editors went on to influence style and fashion. And the girls all looked healthy.
But beyond ELLE, magazines like The Face, i-D, Visionaire, Italian Vogue, Interview, at a time, had editors and Art Directors who used to inspire . Fashion stories could be about the randomest of esoteric idea and we’d find a way to work wearable clothes or over-the-top costume layering around an idea. Bold imagery that would celebrate the humankind by the way we chose to present ourselves.
Somewhere in the last 15 years number-crunchers took over and the bottom sort of fell out. They turned it into this strictly labels lemmings parade where one really can’t tell the difference between fast fashion and Designer. I’ve jumped off that corporate merry-go-round; there’s very little to tempt me.
Today I can say, most days, I know, (personally,) who made whatever I am wearing, head to toe, including foundations, socks and shoes, make up, skin care. I choose to support independent, small run, well made brands and publications like Ubikwist which consistently delivers style, content and so much substance. So, it’s not all dire. Like all good things, sometimes, you have to dig a little.
Let’s talk about your bags. They have become quite iconic here in Los Angeles, and in major cities around the world… a bit of a cult thing. Did you ever think that was going to happen?
Yes and no. I had a vague vision of the type of business model I liked...I was inspired to make something I needed and didn’t really see in the marketplace, at the time. I went about selling the sacs informed by how I like to shop: timeless, well made, small edition, destination purchases.
I love how health conscious you are and that you put EMF protection fabric as lining in your bags for your phone, I hope this becomes a trend in fashion. When did you become aware of this and start that?
I grew up protesting power plants, never like to hold cell phones to my head, wary of head sets even, kept our modems out of the way…I’d always been peripherally aware of the dangers, have one of those protectors on my cell phone and so on, but it was a conversation about a year ago with Lily Hadyn (musician) and Alexis Smart (Flower Remedies) that simply lit me up and made me follow through to add this feature to the sac worn so close to our body. Sometimes ideas marinate and simmer and then the next thing you know, like that, you just make it happen.
The bags themselves are very simple, which I think can be the most challenging when designing. What’s your aim with each piece?
It’s about the simplest form and function. I test drive each bag (and now belts) and use them in many combinations – a Sac or Carryall with a Belt Sac is great in LA where you can fill up your sac then throw it in your car. In NYC I have to carry more so while that combo can work, I often like all hands free with Sac 5 the Crossbody. Stylish usefulness is my aim.
Your bags are incredibly strong and durable, I love that they are meant to last your lifetime and maybe even passed down. There’s so much sustainability in that approach. Was that part of your philosophy?
Absolutely. Wear. Repair. Rotate. Rediscover. Wear some more. I’m not impressed with the vegan leather offerings I’ve seen thus far. Leather exists; cared for, it can last a lifetime and it is 100% biodegradable. Soon I will be sourcing zero waste leathers, and hides sourced from organic farms.
You’ve been a local Los Angeles craftswoman and maker for a long time here, how’s the community and support for local female owned businesses in LA?
For those young women interested in taking their craft a step further, what advice would you give them? Any mistakes you’d share for them to avoid?
1. You are your own best customer. Make what you love, need, have to have. Strive for the absolute best quality you would hope to find if you were spending your own money. 2. Know the marketplace, price point, presentation, etc. Does this item exist already. If so, why yours? Make it authentic to your own interests, style, and narrative. The world really doesn’t need one more thing, so make your offering special. Give it your own spin. 3. Some basic math: cost of materials,, cost of labor, cost of presentation. 4. Baby steps. Start small, sell out, use that profit to reinvest. Learn about your customer, what resonates for them about your offering.
Running a business, manufacturing in the big city, and selling your brand can be all-encompassing. What are some of your key self care rituals?
Intuitively eating well, mostly plant based, Kundalini yoga, and walking. I love simple, all natural beauty products, serums, oils, lotions, potions, adaptogens, teas, tonics, Super You by Moon Juice has been an absolute game changer in keeping me level while having so many pots on the fire, as it were.
How do you honor Mother Earth?
Explore, enjoy, participate whenever possible (parks, forest walks, the beach, potted plants, the desert, gardens, etc) I support organizations that protect, cleans, restores, and regenerates her precious resources...the 3 R’s!
Follow Agnes Baddoo @Agn3s