Designing Wife: Deesigns by Dee Ocleppo
by Jeffrey Slonim
Deesigns by Dee Ocleppo for HSN
Bright and charming in person, Dee Ocleppo is best known as Mrs. Tommy Hilfiger. But now, with the launch of her HSN handbag line, Ocleppo is taking up her well-known husband’s trade.
Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Hilfiger, a tinge of silver in his tidy barbershop coif, invited editors to the “It” couple’s corner apartment at The Plaza Hotel to check out his wife’s elegant and practical new handbag collection.
Every centimeter of the couple’s tony lair was polished and elegantly appointed. (Think scores of colorful Basquiats and Warhols.) In one sumptuous room, a fluffy white rug; in another, a couch loaded with posh pillows, at least one in a heady leopard print; just off the dining room, a French Renaissance-style turret covered in an Eloise mural sketched by Hilary Knight, who illustrated the Eloise book series.
The bags, Deesigns by Dee Ocleppo, were spread across the dining room, which is wallpapered with framed black-and-white photos of Warhol and other notables. Silver chairs that circle the table have an Eastern, possibly Indian, pedigree.
Ocleppo's first efforts hark back to the Pappagallos of everyone's, including Eloise’s, youth. The elegant frames come with reversible covers. And the price point is sensational.
The tasseled Plaza clutch comes in camouflage and leopard at $99.90. The Greenwich Ring satchel, in denim and paisley, is $139. The Monaco tote comes in light camel leather, and a coral crinkle patent. The Mustique has a tortoise chain. With every bag, design and materials belie price.
When she was growing up, Ocleppo carried a purse similar to the Mustique. “I had the little girl version, with the little cotton covers,” she said. “It just wasn’t as well made… This is the updated version, more sophisticated,” indicated Ocleppo. “It’s better made. There are pockets. I’m going to expand to other shapes, but I'll also continue making new covers for existing bags.”
On attaining top quality at HSN prices, Ocleppo said, “For the price, they’re really sturdy. It took a few tries. On the original ones, the buttons kept popping off. We ended up doing a pin method. They’re not going to move. HSN can be quite strict. They don’t want the bag falling apart.”
Completely hand-sewn and outfitted with light blue interiors, all of the bags sell for under $200. “For the lining, I needed a logo, and I came up with this gold crown motif,” she noted. “I think it was around the time of the royal wedding.”
On March 22, Ocleppo will travel to HSN headquarters in Florida to tout the bags on camera. Hilfiger is wholly supportive and, possibly, even a bit jealous of Ocleppo’s network stint. “Tommy’s kind of living vicariously through me,” she explained. “I think he’d secretly like to do it as well.”
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.