February 28, 2016
BY STUART MESIRES
Last August, when I was perusing through my copy of Vogue, I was pleasantly surprised to see the photo below shot by Bruce Weber.
It was part of an editorial called “Box Set” about the new trend for box-shaped handbags. A trend which continues on into the spring. I was drawn to the photo because the Dolce & Gabbana bags that the model is holding reminded me immediately of the bags designed by one of my all-time favorite handbag designers, Enid Collins.
Enid Roessler Collins (1918–1990) grew up in San Antonio, Texas. She attended Texas Woman’s University and studied fashion design and fine arts. She met and married Frederic Collins, an engineering draftsman and sculptor who had attended the University of Michigan. The two moved to a ranch in Medina, Texas, to be ranchers. In 1946, in order to supplement their income, they made leather handbags and started the Collins of Texas Handbag Company. The bags were designed by Enid, made out of saddle leather and trimmed with brass castings cast by Frederic. The bags had an equestrian feel and reflected the Collins’ love of horses. A running colt was adopted into their logo.
The living room of the Collins’ ranch house soon became a workshop as they filled special orders for friends and supplied the small shops at nearby dude ranches.
Around 1959, the Collinses started producing wooden box purses and canvas bucket-style bags trimmed in leather. The bags were hand screen-printed with an image, then embellished with sequins, glass beads and rhinestones.
Enid Collins’ 1960s Collins of Texas ‘Les Fleurs’ bag from Ladybug Vintage.
There were many different bag designs, each with a whimsical, humorous and sometimes ironic title. Over the years, more than 100 designs were produced with such names as, “Glitterbugs,” “Flutterbye,” “Money Tree,” “Road Runner,” ”Night Owl,” “Carriage Trade,” “Money to Burn,” ”Sea Garden” and “Love. Often there were several variations on a theme as popular designs were updated and changed with the different seasons.
Collins of Texas produced a series of special box bags made with gold leather handles that were meant to be used as evening bags. The example below is called “Night Owl.”
The bags came with hang tags. The one below is from a bag dating to the early 1960s.
Front and back of a hang tag from the 1960s that came with a Collins of Texas handbag.
From 1966 to 1968, Collins of Texas made papier mâché handbags and jewelry in a factory in Puerto Rico. These pieces can now be hard to find as production was limited to two years and the items are very delicate.
Collins of Texas really took off when a designer friend of the Collinses suggested that they submit samples to the handbag buyer at Neiman Marcus. They did, and an order was placed. Their bags quickly became the must-have accessory among fashionable ladies everywhere.
Advertisements appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue and other top magazines of the era.
Many advertisements featured the Collins’ daughter Cynthia.
In 1970, Collins of Texas was sold to the Tandy Corporation, which continued to manufacture bags branded “Collins of Texas,” but Enid Collins stopped designing the bags. The company did not want to rely solely on one person. Collins of Texas bags can be dated by looking at how they were signed. The earliest bags are signed with “Enid Collins” or a lower-case “ec” and are often dated by year. The later bags do not have Enid Collins’ name on them. They are signed, “Collins of Texas” or with a capital “C” and a running horse. Collectors prefer the earliest signed works.
Even though Enid Collins’ Collins of Texas bags are no longer being produced, vintage ones can be found. If you are considering the bag below, made by Dolce & Gabbana for Spring 2016, just remember that everything old really is new again but “Daisies Won’t Tell!”