If you’re looking to grasp the attention of the millennial set, currently the age group where domestic violence is most prevalent, talking fashion and icons are two surefire ways to get the conversation started. That’s the mission Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Program set out to achieve when they tapped Scandal actress Kerry Washington to use her star power for good. “It just had to be Kerry,” shared Allstate’s senior Vice President of Corporate Relations, Victoria Dinges. “There really wasn’t anyone else we could think of. Understanding her passion, because we knew that this is such a personal issue, you just can’t have anyone speaking the words, you really needed someone that felt it in their heart.” Here, the newly minted designer takes us through the design process and her first purse memories.
ESSENCE.com: Could you give us a little insight into the design process and what the inspiration and vision was for the Purple Purse?
KERRY WASHINGTON: It all came out of this call with the All State Foundation to really understand more of what their vision was and figure out if it was going to be a good match. I think before we got off of the phone, we knew it was going to be a good match so we jumped into what the goals for the bag were; and this idea that it has to be purple because purple is the signature color for domestic violence awareness, and a purse symbolizes a women’s economic well being - her financial life. Where she keeps the things that matter, that are of value to her –– your phone, your keys to your car and your home, your wallet, and maybe a good pair of sunglasses –– they all live in your purse.
The purse is such a really great idea because it’s difficult to talk about a black eye, it’s difficult to talk about credit that’s been destroyed, but women love to talk about fashion. It’s something that we gravitate towards and we like to share, so it’s a good entry point for the issue.
ESSENCE.com: Of all the styles, why did you choose a clutch, specifically?
WASHINGTON: I really liked the idea of doing a clutch because I wanted it to be something that just doesn’t hang on you, but that you’re really holding onto. Even though it’s a clutch, I didn’t want it to be an evening bag, or like a one-off bag, I wanted it to be a day bag that you could carry and be a utility bag that can hold onto a lot of stuff, because we all travel with a lot of stuff.
I wanted it to have a combination of aesthetic tones, I wanted it to appeal to women with a lot of different kinds of styles. So, the leather, the more angular design features, appeal to a more edgier modern look. Whereas the tweed, is more of a classic, traditional design element –– and the chain. So I was trying to bring together a lot of different feelings so a lot of different women would have an entry point and it might appeal to a lot of different women, while still having a point of view and making a fashion statement.
ESSENCE.com: You have a great sense of style; did you infuse some of your own personal style into the design?
WASHINGTON: I did, because I was committed to the foundation; that it’s a bag that I would wear. And I wanted to make sure that it was a bag that I would want to wear. So, I like a good bag and I’ve got some good ones in my closet, and it had to compete. And, I did a lot of research on what was going on in fall trends, like this aubergine is a color that’s coming up a lot right now and I knew that from some of the shows, so I chose that to go into the tonality. Then I also went back and looked into some of the designers that I love, like archive photos of handbag designers that I love, in terms of shape and details.
ESSENCE.com: What’s in your purple purse?
WASHINGTON: I always have my keys, my wallet, my cellphone. Whenever I leave the house, I’m always like ‘keys, wallet, cellphone.’ Usually make-up wipes, usually a lip color, sunglasses.
ESSENCE.com: What’s your first bag memory?
WASHINGTON: My family used to go out the island in the summer –– God nobody’s ever asked me this before, this is so weird that it immediately popped into my mind! There was a Coach Factory store out of Amagansett, and my mom and my aunts would always go to the Coach Factory store out on the island and get their bag for the year. I remember some of the classic Coach bags my mom had in my early childhood.
Learn more about the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Program.