Words and photography by Rand Niederhoffer
“This is Lou,” says Mimi Eayrs pointing to a tearsheet of Charlotte Gainsbourg for Balenciaga that’s taped to her studio wall. “And this is her dad, he’s a cinematographer. He lives in the West Village, but Lou lives in Brooklyn—probably Park Slope or Carroll Gardens. This is Lou’s mother, she looks like Sonia Rykiel, no? (laughing).”
Set amidst a collage of lithe blondes in varying states of bohemian undress, hangs the weathered face of 89-year old Rosita Missoni, bedecked in a pastel pink twinset, smiling cheerfully at the camera. It’s an atypical inspiration image, but one that addresses the central tenet of Earyslee Handbags.
“We love the idea of heritage, of passing things on from one generation to the next,” says Mimi. “When we started thinking about Eayrslee, we tried to stay away from anything disposable.”
Mimi and Joanne Lee first met at Hayden Harnett where Mimi was the Creative Director and Joanne the Product Designer. “At times, the job was really overwhelming,” says Joanne. “There was always a camaraderie between us in the sense of having each other’s back.” After the company began to falter in the economic crisis of 2009, Joanne and Mimi decided it was time to strike out on their own.
Eayrslee focuses on wearable, classic silhouettes that incorporate unexpected flourishes and contrasts, many of them conceptualized during the duo’s “Craft Fridays”. “We keep a collection of tools and supplies from Metaliferous in our studio space. For us, the idea of doing something that is creative, but is also with our hands is really important.” From these sessions came leather tassels, fur trim toggles and neon powder coated hardware.
“It’s always a push and pull between [creating] something that’s timeless versus something that’s season-driven. But fashion should ultimately be a persona. It’s a perception of yourself, of how you want to be perceived, and something that you can have fun with!”
What other designers do you look to for inspiration?
JL: I religiously follow Proenza Schouler. I’m still obsessed with the Fall 11 collection–all the bright colored Navajo geo fabrics.
ME: There’s something about Dries Van Noten that gets me every time.
What’s the best thing about starting up your own label?
JL: The creative freedom
ME: We play, imagine and make things we like.
What’s the hardest thing?
JL: Um, everything else?
ME: Putting on the “business” hat.
Where do you see the line in 5 years?
JL: I’d love to expand into other categories: outerwear and shoes. And maybe open a shop!
ME: Scarves and other accessories.
What’s your best-kept Brooklyn secret?
JL: Chuko in Prospect Heights for ramen, Weather Up for a fancy cocktail and cheap beers out in the backyard at Hot Bird.
ME: The thing about Brooklyn is that things are always in motion and secrets remain secrets for less than a day. I love all the little pastries that are sold in Adam’s Delicatessen on Nassau between Eckford and Leonard.
What would you do if you weren’t a designer?
JL: I already have plan B retirement fantasy, which is to run a cafe/ hangout spot in the neighborhood. It would have a backyard garden and a fire pit…I’m probably going to have to learn how to make a decent cup of coffee before this happens though.
ME: I love the idea of opening a local boutique that also serves coffee and is more of a community centerpiece where people can hang out.