Joëlle Andrew recently received one of the best compliments of her life: a curious man stopped her on the street and proclaimed that her handbag was the most exquisite thing he had ever seen—and that he wanted to be cremated, and then buried, in it. And after a year of prototyping, testing and admitted trials developing the unique bentwood bag herself, hearing his otherwise morbid declaration was a thrill.
Joëlle became transfixed with bentwood—a light, pliable material—in architecture school when she attempted to create a bentwood chair for a school project. It was a failure, but it launched an even greater desire to get it right and improve on the process, as traditional bentwood work can lead to a lot of waste, rely on very toxic glues and are messy and unruly. She studied the techniques of furniture designers and instrument makers, some of who told her that manufacturing layered veneers which are flexible yet are rigid enough to maintain its shape was not possible.
Joëlle, along with her children Gavin (7) and Gella (5) and her husband Brett, tested and tweaked their process until they mapped out a method that was sustainable, natural, utilized low VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) and water-based glues. The wood is soft, supple and uniquely grained, so each handbag is as individualized as a custom piece of furniture.
Her Hyde Park studio hosts a tiny-scale manufacturing production line so perfectly planned and thoughtfully considered it felt elf-like. Delicate parts were laid out and ready for piecing together on a long, solid wood assembly table, while the children played with their own wood veneer creations at the far end of it. Inspiring is her family's ingenuity and collaboration to develop their technique together; Supplii has become a true family pursuit. Joëlle is pursuing patents for some of their unique bentwood techniques as well.
She has named her business Supplii (pronounced "supply") which eludes to its utilitarian nature while implying its elegance. The Toolbox Series is her first line and currently includes the Toolbox tote and the Toolbox clutch ( both $299). They are available in maple or black walnut hues.
You may want to have your elevator pitch ready when wearing a Supplli tote or clutch: it attracts attention. In fact, when Joëlle and her husband want a night out together, it's not unusual for her husband to request that they leave "Blondie" (a.k.a. maple wood toolbox tote) at home.
The tote and clutch above are available for purchase on Supplii's website.