WORDS Joshua Brosnahan PHOTO Sarah Rowlands

From the age of 10, Anna White was designing her dream handbags. Anna’s childhood memories are mostly from her father’s studio, where he based his textile company, producing neoprene wetsuits under the brand Seventh Wave.

“I used to do the cutting of the neoprene for some of the smaller items,” she says. “I just always had a real love for the design process and the textiles. I’d even accompany him on photoshoots – so I was quite involved in the whole process.”

Now 31, Anna has her own line of handbags. The range is beautiful with a nod to the classic elegance of the Birkin or the YSL tote.

“I constantly have ideas for my new bag designs. I start by sketching. I can design hundreds of bags a day! I end up forming quite a collection.

I guess it’s as much about aesthetics as it is about function when I’m playing with ideas. Designing a bag is like sculpting an object.

There’s a certain element of mathematics to it, you really have to think about every element and how it all fits together.”

Anna’s creative journey has evolved somewhat in recent months following a visit to Italy to scope out potential production partners for her bags.

“There are a lot of craftsmen [in Italy] who have the tools and skills, handed down throughout the generations. They make bags for Mulberry and Burberry and the like, so the quality is very high. As it stands, you really can’t source a structured bag like that, made in New Zealand.”

However, Anna has plans for making at least some of her range locally.

“I’ve just started working with a local manufacturer in Christchurch to do some of the softer totes, and I’m using these beautiful New Zealand leathers,” she says.

“They’re from a tannery here in Canterbury who use deerskins – they export to Louis Vuitton and other amazing brands.

“Local manufacturing means I can produce new styles more regularly. My classic collection will still come from Europe, but our satin evening bags will be made locally in Christchurch. I can launch different colours each month, and keep things fresh. I wanted that balance.

“There are actually a lot of resources locally. It’s a matter of piecing them together. When you discover the right factory, it’s like finding gold.”

Naturally, Anna is hands-on when it comes to the utility of her bags.

“I always test my bags first. I’m a practical person. I hate things that don’t function properly. I make sure they always have the right pockets. Everything just needs to work well.”

Anna’s bags have hand-painted ink edging, and bespoke hardware which she designs herself.

“I like the idea that the bags are not trend-driven either. I want you to be able to pick up an Anna White bag in 10 years’ time and for it still to be relevant – you’ll still love it.

“I wanted them to feel completely timeless, but for there to still be something special and different about them.”

FeaturesJoshua Brosnahan