Bead Happy: Handmade Clutches and Drawstring Bags by From St Xavier

The Sydney, Australia–based company has teamed up with The Met Store on a line of popular hand-beaded bags. They share some thoughts about our special collaboration.

The From St Xavier brand is known for its high-quality, artisanal workmanship and refined—yet charmingly offbeat—aesthetic. This Q & A with Chris Perkins of From St Xavier discusses our ongoing partnership, which began with the introduction of three custom bags for The Met Store’s Fall 2018 season.

The delightful Bees with Honeycomb Clutch (right) was one of our first collaborative pieces. “Bees with Honeycomb.” Candace Wheeler (American, 1827–1923). Wallpaper fragment printed in six colors with four additional metallic colors, 1881. Gift of Sunworthy Wallcoverings, a Borden Company, 1987 1987.1074.1

Where do you look for design inspiration? Inspiration comes pretty easily when you work for a brand that has built a quirky and trend-defiant personality into its DNA. That being said, we find that taking cues from pop culture, both past and present, and interpreting it through the unique From St Xavier lens, has garnered some of the most exciting collections to date.  

We also work very closely with a small group of artisans who are inspiring simply through the sheer passion they have for their craft. Their approach to their work is infectious, and it plays a huge role in what makes our end product so special.

The best-selling Embellished Dragon Clutch is currently in the exhibition shop for “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” and can also be found online at The Met Store

Tell us about how the company got started. The company began in 2013 selling jewelry and a small collection of accessories. Over time, as we began to build and refine From St Xavier, we found customers were gravitating strongly towards our clutch and bag offering. We decided to pivot somewhat and focus on building strong relationships with artisans to interpret this niche in a fresh, new way. We found that interpreting current trends and pop culture references through the art of traditional crafting techniques was a winning combo, and have been nurturing this strategy ever since.

Your press materials say: “Designed in Australia, made in North India.” How does North India fit into your brand’s story? North India is a region that is very close to our hearts. It is one of the few places left in the world where you can still find artisanal skill sets that have been passed down over generations. In the case of From St Xavierwe found that the team in North India had a deep connection to their craft and were excited by our vision and mission. They love to work collaboratively, offering advice and solutions to technical problems, which in turn has enabled us to take risks and offer a bold approach to accessory design. 

We have built From St Xavier with a strong sense of ethics right from the very beginning, and as such it is important to us to know that we are investing in communities who are sustainable in their practices and have a close connection with their work. We felt the artisanal communities in North India encapsulated these ideals, and gave us an opportunity to create something that would be meaningful at every step of the product’s lifespan.

The Flames Drawstring Bag features a striking beaded pattern in contrasting tones

Who creates the initial designs? How do you then transmit the designs to the artisans in India? The initial design concepts are created in-house by our team. It is a very collaborative process, with everyone offering input and sage words of advice. After sharing digital versions of our design concepts with our agents, we hone down the collection to the strongest pieces and send these to India. We then work on selecting beads, embroidery techniques, textiles, and matching the colorways across all mediums to best translate our digital designs into the real deal. We are in constant communication with our team in North India—with many phone calls, WhatsApps, and emails across the entire development process, right up until shipping!

How many artisans have a hand in making one FSX bag? Depending on the complexity of the design we can have up to 10 different artisans working on a single piece. Each piece undergoes varying degrees of patterning, beading, embroidery, and sewing before heading to the framework specialists for the finishing touches.

What does “sustainably made” mean to FSX? Sustainably made to From St Xavier means first and foremost making a conscious commitment to uphold our social and environmental obligations as a business. Working with, and investing in, small communities of artisans whose trade is being lost in a rapidly automated world is so important to us because it brings something inherently human to each and every piece. Our small production runs ensure that we cater to the true demand for our product, and the recycled fibers used in all our linings help take us one step closer to reducing the big problem of textile wastage in the fashion industry. 

Your first clutch designs for The Met featured the famous jewel-encrusted “Crown of the Andes” from Colombia, and the “Bees with Honeycomb” print by the American designer Candace Wheeler. Did these differ substantially from what you were doing before? While they may not have differed substantially with regard to how we produce our pieces, and the mediums through which we interpret designs, the “Crown of the Andes” and “Bees with Honeycomb” drastically altered our thinking processes around how we approach design development. To be able to work with and reference artworks that have such a history gives us an opportunity to research and really build a context behind each design. This additional step in the design process has added a depth to the final product, and opened up a world of inspiration to us. 

The inspiration (left) for the Crown of the Andes Velvet Clutch (right) by From St Xavier. Crown of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, known as the Crown of the Andes. Colombian; Popayán. Gold, repoussé and chased; emeralds, ca. 1660 (diadem) and ca. 1770 (arches). Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Acquisitions Fund and Mary Trumbull Adams Fund, 2015 2015.437

Do you have a favorite Met x FSX bag? We absolutely loved working on the Camp Drawstring Bag done in conjunction with the Costume Institute’s 2019 exhibition theme. The colors, motifs, and pop culture references of camp perfectly embodied all the things we love at From St Xavier.

Richly decorated, the Camp Drawstring Bag features playful symbols associated with the camp aesthetic

Has the partnership with The Met Store positively impacted your business? Yes, absolutely! The platform and reputation that The Met Store has built has made us available to an enormous audience base that we resonate with perfectly. It has also helped us recognize another strength of artisanal craft, and how we can adapt and further explore techniques to really understand how fashion can be used as vehicle to express art.

Has anyone at FSX ever visited The Met in New York? Yes, our CEO Michael Shandler makes a point to visit The Met for a full day every time he visits New York! As a result, he loves being across every step of our collaborative process, often offering advice and encouragement on how to capture the mood and feel of pieces based on his experiences in the Museum.

Anything else you’d like to add? We would like to thank the team at The Met Store for fostering such a great work relationship with our team here in Australia. Your feedback and guidance is so valued, and we look forward to many more adventures in the art world.

Shop all the beautifully made bags by From St Xavier at The Met Store here.