Over the years I have read with great interest about the fashion/social/philanthropic lives of both Cornelia Guest and her iconic Mom, CZ Guest and their impact on the New York City social scene. However, recently I had the opportunity to chat with Cornelia at her two-day visit to Tootsies, and learned about how her cruelty-free approach to life has become a cause that she takes very personally and desires to impact all women across the country.
What began as a lifestyle change for her over the last 15-20 years, as she read and researched treatment of animals in testing and factory farms has now become a business and her life’s passion. She began this as a dietary change to a simple vegan way of eating. She then wanted to both express her fashion side and show women intelligent alternatives to leather products, and where else to begin than with a woman’s most treasured possession, her handbag. She studied what she and her friends likes and needs were, found a manufacturer and began the long process of producing a line of bags that are cruelty-free, a term she prefers. The current line is made of recycled PVC material, which she chose for its obvious likeness to leather and for weight purposes and was determined to keep her prices below $350. The end result are designs that are very much designer in feel and look, but affordably priced so to encourage all women to take this alternative route.
The current collection, which was about 3-4 years in development launched just over a year ago at Bloomingdale’s, NYC. Lucky for Houston and longtime pals such as Lynn Wyatt and Mary Elizabeth Mecom Hahnfeld, she visited Houston and was introduced to Mickey Rosmarin of Tootsies, who she says has taught her so much and been such a great inspiration for her. She referred to him as her “fairy godfather.” This relationship will bring Cornelia and her collection here each season, so expect to see her back very shortly for holiday selling.
From a styling perspective her focus has been primarily on totes, clutches and wallets for now. She has been sampling lots of different alternative fashion fabrics for holiday, resort and spring 2013. She promises her next collection to be very glitzy for holiday and resort/spring will offer pops of color. Some fabric choices she mentioned were the use of flannels, linens, silks and other mixed media ideas as she moves forward with this collection of bags.
Cornelia, as mentioned earlier, did begin her cruelty-free life with her diet and is a caterer also. Because of that and many requests by friends to share her secrets of how she makes so many tasty, meat-free and healthy dishes through the use of grains, greens and other natural ingredients, she has published her first book. Simple Pleasures, a cookbook that is a guide to keeping it simple and healthy was released in June of this year. Also available now for purchase by the bag, are her delish chocolate chip cookies, which she developed through much tried and true testing in substituting her ingredients in a sweet and yummy way.
What’s next for Cornelia Guest in the fashion world? She is seriously looking into footwear and pet items for her next ventures and also plans to tackle faux fur ahead as well. Licensing is certainly a possibility as there is much interest in what she is doing. After all, with animal well-being such a hot topic these days, there are still not many collections out there with alternative choices for the high-end fashion customer.
Below are a sampling of her handbags that can be found at all Tootsies, many Bloomingdale’s, and on her website, www.corneliaguest.com. She’s also an avid social media enthusiast, so look for her on Facebook, Twitter and she loves to answer questions and hear from her customers through the use of Facebook videos, which she embraces regularly.
Fall 2012 Handbag collection:
Tags: animal rights activist, Bloomingdale’s, Cornelia Guest, cruelty-free, cruelty-free handbags, CZ Guest, Lynn Wyatt, Mary Elizabeth Mecom Hahnfeld, Mickey Rosmarin, Simple Pleasures Cookbook, Tootsies