By Toby Halligan
The story behind the Pride Collection, a new series of luxury bags released by Melbournian Victoria George, sounds like the plot of a classic Australian comedy.
One of Victoria’s best friends, Carlo, had fallen in love with a Sri Lankan man when he was travelling for work. After several years of dating, Carlo made plans to bring his partner, Roshan* (not his real name) to Australia so they could be together. But, he had a problem: Roshan’s family are from a rural area of Sri Lanka that remains incredibly conservative. Victoria picks up the story:
“They still lived in a quite small village in Sri Lanka and he just couldn’t come out. So my friend, Carlo, asked me to come with him to meet the parents and to pretend to be his wife! Carlo was going to pretend to be employing Roshan, so he could help him come to Australia to send money home. And part of that was true – but the main reason was they could be together.”
The story took a turn for the absurd when Victoria asked her husband Dean about the plan.
“It was so funny, when I asked my husband, Dean, he said ‘Well, can I come?’ I was like ‘Ummm, why? What will you be doing?’ He wound up coming along and pretending to be our driver. It was very strange. I even got pictures with Carlo and our children to show Roshan’s parents.
It was so amazing meeting them, his whole family was so generous, but it really brought home how hard it can be for so many people who have to hide their sexuality.”
And that story, along with her experiences of seeing members of her family struggle with coming out, has helped shape both the design of the bag, but also where some of the profits from each sale go. A portion of each sale from the Pride Collection, will go to Rainbow Railroad, a charity that works to help LGBTIQ+ people around the world escape homophobic countries.
The story also highlights part of the symbolism that underlies one of the Pride Collection’s very practical features: hidden pockets that help keep the contents private.
When asked what the inspiration was for the hidden pockets, Victoria recalls searching a friend’s bag to borrow a cigarette and discovering her friend had torn a large hole in the lining of the bag.
“She kept her cigarettes there, hand sanitiser, a tooth brush and tooth paste. Her children don’t know she smokes, and when they want something they’ll just go through her bag!”
The habit of tearing a hole in the lining of her handbags began when her friend was much younger – around 19 – and the person she was trying to keep from prying was her mother. Whether it was cigarettes, or, more seriously, morning after pills, the need to help some things private is something that has both a practical and a symbolic dimension with the Pride Collection.
Security was another consideration – she recalls being at a party and someone reaching straight into her bag and fishing out her Kodak camera.
“When your bag’s just open you can feel very exposed. I remember hosting a party when I was 19. I left my bag sitting next to me, but someone just reached straight into it and took out my camera. It had all these personal pictures on it, from my sister’s engagement party and other events and it was just gone forever.”
Despite the Pride theme of the bags Victoria says they’re designed for everyone, and that even her mother wanted a Pride bag over other designs. Different bag designs provide funds to other charities; the black lined bag, for example, provides funds to the Charlie Teo Foundation.
At the moment, 10% per sale goes to charity, but Victoria says her goal is to establish ongoing income for the causes she cares about.
For more information and to see the Pride Collection visit vkyoriginal.com