Five Qs: Mike Ballerini on His Men’s Luxury Bag Collection in Birmingham

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Birmingham-based designer Mike Ballerini, who founded a line of handbags for men two years ago, is now expanding his collection. He spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the next steps for Z Ballerini.

DDN: What is it like to have a company in Detroit and what resources from this area do you use?

MB: First off, (it’s) very, very exciting. Everyone is more than willing to help in any way that they can. Everyone so far that I have hired are graduates from the College for Creative Studies (in Detroit). Tina Tomicic, my technical designer, takes my drawings and sketches and does prototyping, and she also helps to sew the bags together. Steve Riparip does my photography and maintains my website. This summer I will have internships through the College for Creative Studies, and I’m getting my students from their fabric department.

DDN: What originally inspired you to start designing bags?

MB: I’ve always drawn since I was a child, but when I first (started to) design bags was right around 2008. That’s when I was working for Louis Vuitton at the Troy Somerset store. That’s where I gained a lot of my experience — learning from customers in high-end retail: What customers are looking for, what they want, and what they don’t want. Then I started drawing these ideas, taking the feedback, and then creating my own ideas on what I thought that customer would’ve wanted. The demographic (I design for) is the young, professional male. I always like to say “the modern man on the go,” the inner-city commuter, a man that likes to travel, and likes durable, luxurious materials.

DDN: Your bags have unique names. Where do they come from?

MB: They all tell a story. They’re all personally attached to myself in some way or another. Jake, for instance, was my childhood dog growing up, so he was man’s best friend. He went everywhere with me. I grew up in the country (in Capac), so we went on adventures. That’s why I have Jake as the weekender bag.

DDN: What kind of projects are you working on?

MB: Possibly a new line, but new items — smaller daily pieces and small other goods. We’re going to add something similar to the Jake category, which is our weekender, and then the Vivian, which is a daily. I’m creating a new bag that will be in three different sizes — you’ll have a weekend, a daily, and a 24-hours as well. The women’s business is growing and interest is continuing, which is fantastic. The company is in the idea (stage) of designing a bag that will have three different steps, so it would be styled and focused more toward a woman.

DDN: What plans do you have for expansion?

MB: It’ll probably be more toward the end of the year. It would be in Detroit, but I really don’t have an actual target yet. I need to start talking a little bit more in depth with people downtown on trying to figure out a location. The long-term goals are after the men’s bag business gets really going, I would love to eventually get into designing clothing for men.

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