Cynthia Paquette, Liza Hennessy’s founder and designer, named her entire line of handbags and fine leather goods after her great-grandmother Liza. The name, which evokes elegance, refinement, and classic glamour, could not be more perfect.
I spent a lovely day with Cynthia at her home and studio in coastal Maine, learning about this exquisite collection.
What inspired the creation of Liza Hennessy?
Cynthia Paquette: Liza Hennessy Fine Leather Goods was inspired by a desire to create premium products in a medium I knew something about and to find a way to contribute to the conservation of open lands. I have always had a passion for a life lived out-of-doors. I have also been a designer of leather goods for many brands. While serving on the board of a coastal land trust, I took a walk and looked toward the water. I realized that if I created my own fine leather goods business, I could use the generated profits to support land preservation. My father suggested naming the business Liza Hennessy after my great-grandmother, with whom he spent many summers on the family farm in Newport.
When I was a designer for other brands, I was able to use inspired elements of design (raw materials, balance, proportion, design detail) but was never able to incorporate all the best elements at the same time due to corporate strategy or financial constraints.
In creating Liza Hennessy, I wanted to throw off the fetters and create the finest, most functional and elegant leather pieces that would endure over time. I wanted to create a superior product priced to reflect an honest value. I worked to develop a clean concept based on the classical principles of design: perfect proportion and balance, simplicity, grace, comfort and ease. I took the bit in my teeth, and ran with the best inspirations of functional design and elegance, using firm vegetable tanned leathers, soft buffed suede linings, surcingle straps, solid brass swivel clips and rings, silver keepers, and saddle-stitched seams.
The finished product was our Signature Saddle Leather Satchel, heralded as a “modern American classic” in a style editorial when we first launched. It remains at the core of our collection after 12 years.
How has the equestrian sport influenced the design of the collections?
CP: Ever since I was first hoisted up onto a pony at the age of four, I have lived in the horse world. As a life-long equestrian, I have always loved the smell of good leather and the creaking sounds of easing into the saddle. Cleaning and oiling tack and keeping it in good repair were given imperatives for good looks, good performance, and safe leather keeping, which made for a natural path into the leather world. In addition to managing Liza Hennessy, I work at a wonderful riding school as an instructor and as a horse handler. It is unthinkable that my equestrian life would not influence my work on every level.
The curve of a knee roll on a saddle, perfect top-stitching on a brow band, rugged billet straps, solid brass rings and clips, hoof picks, oiled leather softening with use over time, the balance, power, grace, and efficient movement of the gaits — all these elements play a part in the vision of our designs, resulting in a finished product founded in, and reminiscent of, equestrian life.
What do you love most about the line of handbags you have created?
CP: Their simplicity, quality, function, and comfort. The signature satchel is elegant, but also a pleasure to use because each detail was developed to create comfort and ease of use.
Some of the most expensive bags in the world don’t have comfortable straps, or an outside pocket, or the linings are dark and materials disappointing. Our products do not disappoint. I also love the fact that our handbags inspire such appreciation from our customers. It is gratifying to meet customers who love our products.
Read more in our Number 3 edition of the Equ.Lifestyle magazine