Cover Queenie Fan, founder of Cafuné

With handbags worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga, learn all about the face behind Cafuné

Hong Kong-born designer Queenie Fan founded contemporary accessories label Cafuné in 2015 and her sleek, sculptural handbags have since found fans in women worldwide, including Lady Gaga. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate honed her skills at 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach and Rag & Bone, specialising in accessory design before launching her own label, which can now be found at luxury department stories including Lane Crawford, Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette.

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When did you realise you wanted to work in fashion?

When I was 15, I was obsessed with Japanese vintage fashion. I would spend all my pocket money buying Japanese fashion magazines, making notes, cutting out outfits I liked and sticking them into my scrapbook. That was when I knew fashion was something I loved.

What was the first hurdle you had to overcome?

Our first roadblock was how to find the right partnerships. We spent many months travelling, sourcing and developing relationships until we found the right materials and manufacturers. We are lucky to be collaborating with partners who have experience working for high-end fashion brands, and who understand refined craftsmanship and quality.

Who was the first designer you worked for?

Phillip Lim. It was my first job right out of college and I was an accessories intern. I worked day and night, especially during fashion week, running errands, doing specs, helping out with photoshoots and soon. It was hectic but I enjoyed every moment of it. I wasn’t trained as a fashion designer at school [Fan studied industrial design], so it was a bit of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment for me.

When did you first realise your brand was getting a lot of buzz?

When our friends started to send us photos of people carrying Cafuné bags on the street, and when we got messages on our social media platforms asking where people can get the bags locally.

Who was the first celebrity you dressed?

Lady Gaga. Her stylist reached out to us one day looking for our Mini Basket Bucket bag. Later, we found out that she carried the bag to an event. For such a big star to recognise our designs, it meant the world to us.

Where is the first place you look for inspiration?

I’m always interested in how a unique form can be translated into a functional leather piece. Therefore forms and shapes play a major part in Cafuné’s aesthetics. Sculptors and ceramists are a constant source of inspiration for me. My favourites include Isamu Noguchi, Eva Ziesel and Brancusi.

What is your next goal?

To collaborate with artists across the world to generate creative conversations with Cafuné. We will also continue to expand our Conscious Collection by exploring different sustainable materials and manufacturing techniques.