Inspiring Women: Meet the Australian Handbag Designer Who'll Brighten Your Day (and Wardrobe)

Tiff Manuell's one-of-a-kind accessories are a true celebration of color and craftsmanship.

I first stumbled upon Tiff Manuell and her colorful creations on Instagram and immediately knew I had to have one — but which one? Because here's the thing: Each Tiff Manuell piece (handbag, neckpiece, pair of leggings, etc.) is fantastic and one-of-a-kind. Tiff and her Australia-based team create these accessories by painting a giant canvas then cutting it up and fashioning the pieces into works of art that you can wear and/or carry, so no two are ever exactly the same. And because they're all so cool and unique, you're going to be hard-pressed to pick an absolute favorite.

Tiff's handcrafted works of art are made in her studio in Adelaide, South Australia, but even if you live in another hemisphere like I do, you can follow her ever-evolving creations via her website (and Instagram and Facebook). Every few weeks she debuts new products with different colors and paint splatters, so even if you fall in love with a bag that is sold out, chances are you'll find another if you're just a bit patient. (Yes, she ships to the US!)

After finally committing to a clutch of my own, I am forever hooked on the Tiff Manuell brand. I tapped Tiff for an interview to gain more insight into her creative process and love affair with color — here's what she had to say.

Livingly: What made you want to start your own accessories company?

Tiff Manuell: The creation of the Tiff brand was really a happy accident, I already had my own commercial design business that I worked on day to day but I was craving personal freedom, to create and paint and sew without any boundaries. I started giving myself a couple of days a week to play and happened to make a couple of clutch bag ideas, one to give to my friend and another couple as experiments. I was lucky as the business just seemed to snowball as a couple of girls bought them and slowly more girls came knocking on my door and I just spent more and more time painting and making. It was a total joy. I had no aim of filling a gap but I had designed a product that was unique I guess, each one with its own characteristics and the PVC cover just gave it that glossy but functional edge. The product range is simple but I think our customers really value the creative edge and huge influence of colour.


What inspires you?

I always find this question tricky, I think as a creative person, inspiration feeds in from everywhere, whether you are actively looking for it or just happen upon it through daily experiences. We do source images for colour and texture inspiration but I try very hard to make sure we make final artwork very much our own. I am loving the throwback to the 80’s for pattern and colour palettes at the moment but this can change from week to week. We are super spontaneous and our work can change any time we wish as we create and paint every working day. I love many designers work, from all practices but I am a junky for colour so am more drawn to those that are bold and experimental with it.


Could you walk me through your creative process?

I can be inspired by something I see or how I’m feeling each day, creating quite a unique and spontaneous process. However, as a team we tend to work on a fortnightly basis where we will get together and discuss ideas, moods and colour pallets which generally come from magazines or Pinterest. We mix up our looks day to day so there's something for everyone. For an idea to transform into a collection of bags it can take between one to three weeks.

 

What kind of woman loves the Tiff Manuell brand?

Our perfect customer understands the level of detail that goes into our clutches, who finds a colour palette that reflects her personality, or can create someone entirely different for a night. Each one of our pieces speak to someone special, whom appreciates the amount of love time, and effort that has gone into creating it. People love our brand because they know once they’ve purchased a particular clutch, they’re not going to see millions of others just like it wondering the streets. The clutches are unique, just like them.


How do you see your work and products evolving over time?

I never imagined the level of change that Tiff Manuell has already experienced as a brand between now and when I finished making the first bag. I would love to eventually stock key galleries around the world and sell directly from our online store. I want this brand to stay true to its roots and remain bespoke and unique till its end.


How does your own personal life and experiences shape your business?

Before Tiff Manuell I came from a background in design, managing a huge team of staff and ending up hating it. I needed a release, a way to relax and yet provide for my family. I love what I do everyday and I think that's the key to success rather than thinking bigger is better. My past experiences have taught me that I need to always need to balance my mental health with the success of my business and not get too caught up with the growing world around me.


Which are your favorite Tiff Manuell pieces?

I’ve always been drawn to brights. I have a collection of my own pieces at home, they all feature bright oranges, reds, blues and pinks. 

What advice do you have for other women who are looking to start their own business?

I think it is important to create something that is unique to the market rather than follow whats already out there. Running your own business gives you total control, so manage it just as you see it, make it work for you and let it stand for what you believe in.


What do you love most about your job?

I love that I wake up each morning excited to go to work. I love how my work varies each day and can be constantly inspired by my environment, my family, the fashion industry, social media etc. I think of my job as a release and a hobby rather than work.

Inspiring Women: Meet the Australian Handbag Designer Who'll Brighten Your Day (and Wardrobe)
Tiff Manuell

Why is color so important in your products and also in your life?

The use of colour is a way of communicating with people, I love the way the change in application and composition can alter the way people feel. Its a way of expressing yourself, and that's why our clutches are so important in our customers wardrobes. I love seeing a customer walk in and be instantly drawn to particular colours, or textures - which completely differs to the next girl that walks in.

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The Director of Editorial Operations at Livingly Media and lover of all things sprinkles.
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