Jeffrey Levinson’s is not the story of a designer who spent his early days working on fashion sketches or studying fabric swatches.
In fact, the self-proclaimed “Philly kid” — who launched his eponymous accessories company in 2014 — brings experience as unique as his inaugural collection of clutch bags, recently featured in a trunk show at Mary Jane Denzer in White Plains.
Completing an education that touched on environmental science and marine policy and includes an MBA, Levinson would go on to a professional life in fields including scientific advising, marketing, strategy and corporate finance.
Every step, he says, influenced the next.
A stint in the auto industry that took him to Detroit and Southern California while working for the Ford Motor Co. and then Jaguar Cars Ltd.? Pivotal, he says, in fine-tuning his appreciation for “sculptural beauty.”
Through the years, no matter the field, it has always come down to what Levinson says keeps him excited — “pushing boundaries, looking for new opportunities, growth, product launches.”
Levinson is, he says, drawn to the “fast-paced, high-end, product-development” aspect of the fashion world, which he entered almost by accident when projects “fizzled” and he took the raw materials in another direction.
“I liked the idea of creating. I liked the idea of building something,” he says. “I did not come up with business ideas with the intent of being in fashion.”
But that’s where Levinson is today, building his Philadelphia-area brand through his inaugural collection, the Elinaclutch. The name Elina, which Levinson translates as “ray of light,” is a nod to a style reflecting a timeless beauty.
The clutch is a sleekly sophisticated bag imbued with a certain organic appeal. It’s a look at once edgy while also somehow familiar, a reflection of an approach that seems to come naturally to Levinson.
“Let me just put it this way: Design and art have always been a part of who I am.”
With an award-winning architect (and watercolor artist) for a grandfather and an aunt whose sculpture is part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Levinson says there is a real “interest and talent, arguably,” in his blood, a particular skill set “kind of cooked-in.”
Levinson sums up his design philosophy or aesthetic as something that’s “very honest but with a little kick, with some sparks.” He’s committed to creating enduring objects that carry a “very truthful sense of the form.”
“It’s important to me that it also has something unusual about it.”
And the Elinaclutch’s primary material is just that — Levinson is working with aerospace-grade aluminum that is then given a highly hand-polished finish capped by a “very durable, protective” coating.
Artistry and sourcing, he adds, are integral to creation.
Levinson’s business card carries two words — American Accessories — under his logo and name, recognizing that each clutch features components custom-designed in the United States, where they are also handmade.
“One of the things that I would just tie back to Jaguar and my time at Jaguar is understanding material selection,” he says.
All bags feature a lining handmade out of Italian lambskin, while a patented ring-bale clasp, inspired by a 19th-century wire bottle-stopper, offers a visual connection to America’s design history.
The bags are singular, with some sporting a solid hue. Others evoke a textured finish or feature an intricate pattern, with all sharing a common element.
“The artwork on every one, whether is has the leopard spots or the dragon, is original and hand-painted,” Levinson adds.
At minimum, he says, creating a bag takes “about 20 hours of handwork,” with fine details sometimes doubling that time frame
Striving for recognition is a constant, with Levinson already breaking through in the Hamptons, Palm Beach, Chicago and Dallas, with social-media outlets, particularly Instagram and Facebook, furthering the reach.
Customers, he says, should know he wants his bags to stand out for more than just their looks.
“I like the idea of using the latest and most cutting-edge technologies that are relevant, and I really am drawn to solving challenging problems.”
He uses the “cracked porcelain”-patterned bag to explain a key challenge overcome. He points to a photograph that demonstrates it not only fits the iPhone 6 but, in a patented move, does more.
“We have the technology integrated into the design that allows the phone to work,” he says, noting it’s not a given when working with metals.
At the end of the day, there is a lot that goes into a Jeffrey Levinson bag that he hopes will connect with his ideal customer, a woman he envisions through attributes rather than demographics.
She is, he says, “… somebody who has a lot of confidence, her own sense of personal style and (is) willing to embrace a brand that’s lesser-known” because she appreciates the design and materials.
“That personality,” he says, “is not defined by age.”
Something any WAG reader would tell you is most certainly true.
For more, visit jeffreylevinson.com.