Belgian bag brand Kipling celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. A good reason to take a look behind the scenes of the label, which is famous for its light nylon bags and iconic monkey mascot. We talked to Design Director Tina Debo about Kipling's heritage, brand values, target group and design philosophy.
Interview by Maria Hunstig

What has changed in quarter of a century? How was the brand perceived before compared to how is it perceived now? What is the target group buying Kipling products today?
The Kipling story is one of great passion, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. It all started in 1987 in a small flat in Antwerp, the city of fashion. At that time, Kipling was one of the first bag brands bringing nylon handbags to the market with unexpected elements such as a monkey key fob hanging on the bags as a mascot. When the iconic Basic collection was launched, the brand was quickly picked up by youngsters and in many countries became the must-have brand for “back to school” items and schoolbags, but this has never been the brand's main focus. The handbag category has always been the most important part of our business. Therefore we focus on a woman from the moment she starts up her own professional and/or family life until she has an established career or family. This means that indirectly we also target kids, as these women also shop for their offspring!

Installation by contemporary artist Li Wei, which was created in the "Play with bags" initiative for Kipling's 25th anniversary
Installation by contemporary artist Li Wei, which was created in the "Play with bags" initiative for Kipling's 25th anniversary

What sort of positioning does Kipling strive for? Do the current fashion trends of authenticity and vintage help attract younger customers; is Kipling becoming "cooler" again?
Finding the balance between looking smart and feeling comfortable has been our design philosophy since day one. Kipling wants to be one of the major players on the handbag market but doesn't strive to be a fashion leader. We like to bring an honest, high-quality product to the table that lasts longer then one season or the latest fashion trend. Kipling is the go-to name for effortless styling with casual, well-made, clever bags. There's always an element of playfulness with a feminine twist. People nowadays look for authentic products that they can use for a long time; staying true to who we really are gives our customers confidence in Kipling and convinces more and more new consumers everday, resulting in the fact that our sales have doubled over the past 5 years.

Classic Kipling nylon bag with monkey hanger
Classic Kipling nylon bag with monkey hanger
Do you stick to typical design features (monkey hangers, round brand sign, nylon materials) or are these features seen as outdated now?
The monkey is our hero and is featured on each bag, whether it is literally hanging on to it or hidden inside as a surprise lining-print. Oversized zippers, webbing straps and our iconic crinkled nylon are used each season in new and unique ways to keep the brand fresh.

What can we expect for 2013 - vintage or futurism and innovation? Which colors and bag shapes do you think will be strong?
For Kipling, 2013 is all about innovation around our iconic nylon material. Lightness on all levels, whether it be in material or color, will be very important. Currently we are working on some energizing brights and refreshing aqua hues for Spring '13 and we believe classics such as stripes and color-blocking will be even stronger for 2013 print-wise. The outdoor hiking trend will be a big influence on shapes of accessories for next year and will be translated into multifunctional satchels and crossover bags.