Dee Ocleppo: An Original Designer

Elysze Held

Designer Dee Ocleppo talks with about her new collection of exclusive handbags, her career in design, and her greatest luxury: her family.

In a world of constant exposure to the grandest and the best, it would seem that the luxury market had not an ion of space nor attention for yet another extravagant handbag to satisfy the modern woman’s luxury craving. Enter Dee Ocleppo and her one-of-a –kind concept for her luxury handbag line.
Dee Ocleppo

And what makes this collection unique? Besides the shape, the colors, the hardware, the fur, the use of exotic skins (python, crocodile, ostrich), her concept of a convertible bag presents a three-in-one option (the handbag with a reversible, removable cover in a different skin, color, or hue). Interchangeable luxury. Genius!

I had the opportunity to chat with Dee Ocleppo (aka Mrs. Tommy Hilfiger) during her recent appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbor. She brought along her newest collection for Spring 2015, comprised of lightweight and sleek, richly hued handbags, a sharp contrast to the lavishness of the exotic skins and extravagant fur purses of Fall 2014. With this newly curated collection, Ms. Ocleppo remained true to her original concept of a convertible bag and has proven that her line is not a whim of whimsy, but a viable, fresh and modern presence in the luxury market. Oh, and she also brought along her husband.

Dee Ocleppo
Tommy Hilfiger & Dee Ocleppo.

ELYSZE HELD [E.H.] / Let’s talk first about inspiration: how did you come up with this unique design and concept?
DEE OCLEPPO [D.O.] / When I was growing up, I had a little bag with a cotton cover and buttons…That is where the fantasy started–I wanted one, like I had when I was little. That childhood bag is very similar to one in my collection called the Mustique. But I also wanted to do luxury bags, to have them made in Italy, so I just went there and had samples made. I re-worked the design until I felt I got it right, and made an updated version of it. I am in the process of expanding to other shapes, but I’ll also continue making new covers for the already existing bags in my line.

E.H. / Do you feel it has been difficult to break into an already overcrowded market?
D.O. / I am grateful that my husband was impressed with my unique idea, and he encouraged me to pursue it. Harrod’s (of London) was my first launch, and my collection found a champion in Marigay McKee (former CEO of Harrods, and presently CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue). The market is interested in good quality. Women especially value this, and they recognize the originality of the collection. In the end, it is really about the product—being the wife of Tommy Hilfiger has opened doors for me, but if you do not have a great product the doors do not stay open.
Dee Ocleppo

E.H. / Who would you say has had the biggest impact in your life?
D.O. / My parents. The qualities and the value system that my parents instilled in me at a young age, I still carry with me today. They always insisted on education and respect for the quality in life. I have had many different phases in my life, through my modeling years, and after, and that value system and the way I was brought up has given me the strength to remain steadfast in whatever I set out to do.

E.H. / What is your idea of luxury?
D.O. / I sometimes think luxury is more about personal values. My husband and I work incredibly hard; we give back to the community; we have a pretty good size family. I have a 20-year-old, a 17-year-old, and we have a five-year-old. In terms of pleasure and luxury, being home with my family and resting is my utmost luxury.  ■

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