By Jessica Bowne | April 22, 2015 | People
Tommy Hilfiger's wife, Dee Ocleppo, talks about her line of luxury bags, her dedication to philanthropy, and more.
Editor in Chief Lisa Pierpont and Dee Ocleppo
Stunning, friendly, and honest, Rhode Island native Dee Ocleppo could easily have basked in her husband Tommy Hilfiger’s spotlight, but, instead, she launched a line of luxury bags aimed at the woman who wants to carry something unique. Earlier this month, Editor in Chief Lisa Pierpont spoke to Ocleppo about her bags and her philanthropic work at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Hot Pink Party kickoff at Saks Boston. Here is what she revealed:
Lisa Pierpont: Is this your first time in Boston?
Dee Ocleppo: No, I grew up in Rhode Island, so I’ve been to Boston many, many times.
LP: What were your favorite places around here?
DO: I loved coming to the Aquarium and Faneuil Hall. When I was in high school, I actually started modeling in Boston. Jean Renard was the photographer. I think he started Niki Taylor…So Jean was the one that got me started in modeling.
LP: How long did you model for?
DO: I started when I was in high school and then I did some [work] in college and a few years after college, and then called it a day after that.
LP: Did you make your foray in fashion soon after that?
DO: Not really, I took a detour because I married and then was a mom, so I was living in Monte Carlo for about 13 years, and I raised my two older boys there.
LP: Your bags are really beautiful. With these changeable covers, they’re not like anything out there.
DO: Thank you! That’s the biggest compliment. I get bored very easily and then sometimes when I go into stores and there’s just so much stuff, it all starts to look the same. So I really wanted to have something to carry that was different, that somebody would stop me and say, ‘Where did you get that?’
LP: How do you describe the aesthetic of your bags?
DO: Special. People always ask me to describe my style, and I would say it is edgy-classic, because I like classic silhouettes, but then I like a twist. You can have a beautifully tailored jacket or dress or a beautiful silhouette in a bag but if there’s something a little bit special about it, it draws the eye. The linings are pink inside because when you have a black lining, it’s like digging through a black hole. And then if it’s too light-colored, it gets dirty. I’m carrying bags and I’m using them so I think of maybe where I might want to put an extra pocket or maybe I need this.
LP: I know that you’re philanthropic and you have a couple of causes you are really passionate about: cancer and autism. What draws you to them?
DO: Those are the two that affect my life the most. I think people are drawn to the causes that, for the most part, have some effect on their own lives. Most people don’t really either acknowledge it [autism] with their kids or they just don’t want to talk about it. Because, you know, they want to protect their kids or they don’t want to stigmatize the children. But when I start talking to people it kind of comes out. And then, of course, breast cancer is the same thing. I myself personally, thank God, have not suffered from it yet, or hopefully never, but the statistics on it are scary. And that touches a lot of my customers.
LP: How did you get involved with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation?
DO: Well, they’re an amazing organization. Evelyn Lauder [founder of the BCRF] was a complete inspiration to me and I would love to be the Evelyn Lauder of autism. But these are really strong, powerful women and Evelyn did such an amazing job. Leonard [Lauder] is a really dear friend and he’s a mentor to my husband, and so, of course, we’re here to support them. We did a little bag for BCRF last year. It’s important for me to be here to support them.
LP: What is it like working with your husband on this project?
DO: He’s been totally the inspiration, the driving force behind me doing the bags, because I would never even dream of doing this if I didn’t have Tommy standing behind me. I might have a taste to know what I want in a bag, but I think a lot of young designers today, there’s a left and right brain thing going on, and they might just have the design part of it but the business part of it is just as important.
LP: What inspired this new collection?
DO: I try to think about a place and I was inspired by Mustique for this new collection. So obviously we did some beach bags, because I’m going to be at the beach. And then I started thinking about colors and this winter was brutal, so I was just switching out my shoe closet, and I always look forward to getting rid of all my blacks and darks and bringing in some color.
LP: Who do you think about when you design?
DO: I think that these bags are probably for the woman that already owns those kinds of bags and she’s not really too concerned. I don’t have a heavily logoed bag, so that’s also why if you carry them it’s not evident who the designer is because I don’t slap it all over the bag. It’s really for a confident woman. She’s got to be confident in her own style.
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