by Sid Feddema

Rachel McCollum has lived a life of inspiring wanderings. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana, studied at a boarding school in Europe, and currently lives in New York. With her debut line of luxury handbags, titled MCCLLM, she synthesizes these disparate influences (and particularly the modern architecture of the cities in which she has lived) to create pieces that combine functionality, sculptural shapes and clean edges – along with unexpected elements.  

We spoke to Rachel about the process behind starting a new brand, filling the need for a functional yet stylish handbag, and her many inspirations: 

What’s the meaning behind the name of your handbag line, MCCLLM?

MCCLLM pronounced ‘Mek-aw-luhm’ is actually the acronym for my last name McCollum. I wanted a name that is distinctive and memorable but also a bit mysterious. For our logo we chose a light uppercase sans serif with the first L flipped as a little unexpected twist and distinguishing characteristic. The subtle and unassuming word mark is meant to capture MCCLLM’s concept of no-fuss luxury. 

What is the creative process behind your designs?

Whenever coming up with a new design for a bag I try to pair refined functionality with a sense of modern sensibility. What that means is that I put a focus on a clean, minimal aesthetic and high quality but I also think a lot about in what context the bags will be used by women. Having worked in the luxury accessories industry, I realized that there was a rigid dichotomy between fashion and function. Most high end products were solely focusing on aesthetic properties and design, instead of putting much thought into the usability of bags and women's lifestyles. This realization pushes me to constantly improve our products so we continue creating the perfect work-life bags for our customers.

MCCLLM is a modern, high-quality handbag brand designed in New York and handcrafted in Italy. At the core of my design philosophy is the concept of ‘less-is-more’. Our craftsmen hold a strong commitment to creating handbags that are supremely constructed providing long-lasting product use to a standard of perfection. There was just as much thought put into the interior, each bag has multiple padded compartments with paperboard folding for office files and devices as wells as pockets for cords. We exclusively use rare and highly resilient leathers that have been treated to have soft fibers, enabling computers and other electronics to be placed inside without protective covers. Each product is also completely water-resistant from the inside out!

How has architecture inspired MCCLLM handbags?

I live in New York City so I draw a lot of inspiration from its eclectic urban architecture. In my designs I like to references those sculptural shapes and the clean-edge aesthetic - with unexpected elements. The pattern work behind the handbags were driven by math and developed in collaboration with an architect and CAD specialist. I think that this rather unusual process allows me to give the design and construction of the bags an interesting level complexity. 

Who are some of your style inspirations?

I’ve always been very interested in minimal and abstract art so I’m usually inspired when I browse NYC’s numerous galleries. Richard Serra and Charles Hinman are two of my all-time favorite artists, what influenced my first collection ‘Black on White’ color wise was definitely the work of Ad Reinhardt’s ‘Black’ Paintings. When it comes to my personal style I would say that fashion role models are Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela and Issey Miyake. 

Describe the woman you'd like to see carrying an MCCLLM bag.

I envision two types of women carrying a MCCLLM Bag: The urban socializer – who sees her wardrobe as an extension of her creative and unique personality. She travels in style and is looking for quality over quantity/craft over mass. Then the affluent alfa – who knows exactly what looks good on her. For her, fashion, function and superior quality must come together to appeal to her always on-the-go lifestyle.

Overall, I would describe the MCCLLM woman as elegant, understated paired with a take-me-seriously quality. She is an empowered and passionate – not self-entitled – individual. She is modern, independent and a driven professional who takes pride in her appearance but with ease.

The handbags from your first collection, Black on White, incorporates functionality and modern sensibility, how does this define the essence of your brand as a whole?

Our mission is to create versatile, high-quality and elegant handbags for women on the move. This informs all our creative and strategic decisions, so what you see in our inaugural collection is a first manifestation of those efforts. In this first collection I am trying to avoid anything that is unnecessary, focusing on the essentials and the beauty of form. The “Black On White” collection was launched at the beginning of 2017 and can be found online at

For the upcoming season, I’m exploring new colors and adding new little touches that will have a big impact on versatility, allowing our bags to do more and to be used in more contexts.

Interview by Morgan Vickery
Photographed by Vadim Krizhanovsky