Lower East Side Designer Uses Horse Bridles in Handbag Designs

By Serena Solomon on August 7, 2012 11:46am 

LOWER EAST SIDE — She's taking fashion from the stables to the streets.

Sleek, sexy and rock 'n' roll is how local handbag designer Lindsey Hufnagel would describe her equine-themed collections, which come adorned with horse tack ranging from bridles to leather.

Owing to a childhood fascination with horses, the 32-year-old has been hand-making bags in her showroom Horse+Nail on Grand and Essex streets since 2009. Her pieces are stocked by local clothing stores like The Cast on Orchard Street, and have also appeared in both Vogue and Accessories Magazine.  

"The hardware is all actual equestrian horse tack, and the leather is rich and soft," said Hufnagel, who holds a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons The New School for Design.

Hufnagel sources the tack from small horse-equipment wholesalers such as Partrade and Kimberwick, and the items either end up as a handbag strap or an accessory adorning the front of the bag.

Her first handbag to use tack, the $748 "Scout" bag, uses a hackamore — a piece of headgear that does not include a bit. The padded piece is commonly found over a horses snout in addition to a bridle, but can also double as a designer element, she said.

"It drapes over the shoulder, so it looks like shoulder jewelry," she said. "It is one of my favorite pieces."

Hufnagel also uses other headgear, such as a bit, which traditionally goes into the horse's mouth, but at Horse+Nail headgear becomes a decorating element.

Keeping in line with her rock-girl style, the designer's other bags are adorned with spikes, bullets and leather tassels.

Hufnagel's working showroom — decked out with an industrial sewing machine, pieces of leather and horse tack — is constantly humming.

"One bag, from start to finish, can take up to three days," she said, adding that a less-intricate piece can take only one day. Each bag is completed with layers of leather, as well as lining.

Hufnagel also makes bag accessories that can clip on and hang off any bag. These are made from items like arrangement of feathers, leather tassels, rabbit feet, fox tails and fake bird skulls. 

A childhood spent riding horses in her native Canada provided the inspiration for Hufnagel's creations.

"I think the first time I rode a horse I was 5," she said, recalling riding at her godfather's farm in Canada and being bucked off a few times.

"You think I would be afraid of them," said Hufnagel, who still occasionally rides in Brooklyn.

The images that have stuck inside her mind are those taken by SoHo-based photographer Roberto Dutesco featuring wild horses on Sable Island, off the coast of Canada. His raw photos show the strength and beauty of the horses, as well as their camaraderie and conflict, Hufnagel explained.

"They are beautiful, strong and powerful creatures," the designer said. "And that is how I want my customers to feel."

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