Will She Make the Next Birkin?

Priscila Alexandre Spring, who was appointed the creative director of leather goods at Hermès in 2020.Credit…Maxime La for The New York Times
She first does a sketch, which she then takes to the prototype makers, who discuss size, functionality, even the sound of the hardware.Credit…Maxime La for The New York Times

“The bag, it carries your things and carries your secrets,” Priscila Alexandre Spring said. The 43-year-old creative director of leather goods at Hermès sat in her office in Pantin, just outside of Paris, explaining what she liked about designing bags — in particular, the relationship between “your private life and your exterior life.”

Ms. Alexandre Spring joined the Hermès leather goods métier in 2015, and in 2020 she was appointed to her current role. Hermès, which began in 1837 as a saddle maker, is a name that comes with intimations of money (bags often sell for more than $10,000), scarcity (if you can get your hands on one) and craftsmanship (each is handmade by a single craftsperson). Most people have heard of the Kelly bag (named for Grace Kelly) or the Birkin (named for Jane Birkin) and the myriad celebrities who tote them.

It is Ms. Alexandre Spring’s job to make the next big one.

Born in Canada, Ms. Alexandre Spring grew up in the south of Portugal. Her Portuguese father and Mozambican mother were both teachers who wanted their daughter to be curious about the world and have a classic education. She learned five languages (English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian) and studied piano, flute, violin and ballet.

At 13, she switched to basketball, which she played until she was 25. “Maybe this is why, for me, it’s really important to work within a team,” Ms. Alexandre Spring said. She keeps an Hermès baseball glove in her office alongside stacks of art books — “Margiela: Les Années Hermès,” Jamel Shabazz’s “A Time Before Crack.”

She studied fashion design at the Lisbon School of Architecture, then moved to Paris and bounced around design houses, working first for the Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, then designing men’s ready-to-wear for Louis Vuitton, then as an accessory stylist for Balenciaga. She moved to New York in 2008 to join Proenza Schouler.

Assorted Hermès bags share space alongside stacks of art books in Ms. Alexandre Spring’s office.Credit…Maxime La for The New York Times

Back to top button