Gretchen Rossi
Credit: Gretchen Rossi

I’ll admit it:  I have a bit of a girl crush of sorts with Gretchen Rossi. My love fest for her has been running for about a decade since her days on The Real Housewives of Orange County to now where she is an in-demand designer of handbags, accessories (under the name Gretchen Christine) and so much else.  She’s one of the few reality stars who really took a nose dive into positivity and found her true calling.  It brings my respect level for her to a whole other level.

I had a blast chatting with Gretchen the other day about her new line of handbags for the fall, as well as so many other things including her fashion inspiration and if she would ever pick up that orange again and rejoin RHOC.  Take a look.

I know a lot of people know you from RHOC, and you have taken that success and parlayed it into a line of really great handbags and accessories.  Has fashion always been your forte, or how did you fall into that?

So, I kind of having a running joke that I “came out of the womb with bow and high heels on.” I’ve definitely been a fashionista my whole life.  My family and friends have always come to me for styling and fashion advice.  I literally changed my bedroom around 92 times a week because I was just bored and wanted to do something creative and be inspired by everything that I had around me.

I literally have been designing and creating since I was a little girl.  I was that same girl who would go to Michael’s and buy tons of arts and crafts, and be making my own hats or sweaters or whatever it was.

When did this become a career choice for you? 

What’s interesting is that when I started in my career right out of college it was in real estate.  As I was selling the houses, I had so many clients ask me if I would be interested in doing interior design for them because I would always say to them “Oh this would look great here.” So I ended up getting hired by a lot of clients that I would sell houses to actually do to the interior designs in their home.

So that’s where I first got my dabble in interior design, and then when I got on the show, I was so grateful and so blessed that I had such amazing fans and people that looked up to me for my fashion sense and everything from beauty to makeup to hair.  I found that I was receiving so many emails and messages from fans asking me where I got a handbag that I was wearing on the show.

Which one was it? 

There was this one handbag in particular, it was this gorgeous, coral Versace handbag, and I received so many messages about it. It was $3,000, and when I was responding to everybody telling them the amount, they would say they could never afford that!  I could feel that disappointment coming back from the fans, and I thought, this is ridiculous!  Every woman should have access to luxury, designer fashion at an affordable price.

So, that’s when I set out to create the Gretchen Christine handbag collection, and it was a huge hit!  It was so great to receive the emails from these women who say “You are my fashion inspiration, and it’s so great that I can receive one of your handbags with all the bells and whistles and embellishments,” and its something they can actually afford.  That made me feel super great to create something for the everyday woman.

Can you tell a little bit more about your fall handbag collection and what your favorite one is from it?

You know, it’s difficult.  Whenever I get asked “What’s your favorite bag?”, it’s so hard because there’s so much love and work that goes into each creation.  I tend to gravitate towards one bag more than the other, because it goes with every outfit beautifully or it seems to be an easy bag to handle but I honestly cannot tell you that there is one bag that I love more than another because all of them have such a different and unique shape and feel to them.

For instance, the Audriana Messenger bag, I have it sitting next to me in a camel color.  And you can just throw everything in it, and it looks great and chic. Right now I’m in flipflops and a comfy outfit, however it looks better when I have this bag to throw over my shoulder.

I also have a line called Jordyn, which is this gorgeous, structured little square shaped bag.  It looks perfect going out to dinner at night.  If I wanted to spruce it up a little, I can put the studded strap on that as well.  Every bag has a different feel and function to it and I love them all so much.

What separates your line from the pack?

The thing I’m most proud of in this collection is that it is a Vegan leather collection.  Most people don’t know what that means, so for us we wanted to find the highest quality Vegan leather out there.  That meant, literally, shipping out different bags to the factory of real leather, and saying to them, “I have to have the vegan leather look like the real thing“.  I had plenty of samples come back and I said, “No, that’s not good enough“.

I really wanted the customer to not be able to tell the difference between real and vegan leather, the latter of which means there is no animal byproducts used in it, but the quality is so fabulous and luxurious that you can’t tell the difference.  The customers are so shocked that it isn’t real!  I wanted to be the more accessible vegan leather collection out there and I think we have done a great job with this collection.

Who would you say is your biggest style icon?

I would say Grace Kelly.  She always had such beautiful grace and always looked so stunning.  I love the elements that she would incorporate into her looks with the lace and I love that feminine look.

Now, the big question: would you ever return to RHOC?

I never say never.  The truth is that I really feel like I’ve grown in leaps and bounds beyond the show, and my business is getting bigger and bigger so that’s where my focus has been.  I’m really looking forward to growing and expanding the brand and be an international sensation!

For more information on Gretchen Rossi’s fabulous handbag and accessories line, check out her official website.