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Updated: September 20, 2023

Maine handbag designer relishes real-life 'Project Runway' role during New York Fashion Week

Five models with handbags Photos / Getty Images Handbags and jewelry designed by Maine's Becky McKinnell were in the spotlight during New York Fashion Week.
Becky McKinnell walking with her handbag Photo / Getty Images Becky McKinnell designs ocean-inspired accessories for Wildwood Oyster Co.

Ocean-inspired handbags and jewelry designed by Maine’s own Becky McKinnell were paired with clothing and shoe fashions from international designers in four runway shows during New York Fashion Week earlier this month.

“It was a blast,” McKinnell said of the event hosted by Flying Solo, a New York-based fashion collective for independent accessory, beauty, cosmetic and home brands.

McKinnell, founder and owner of Portland digital marketing development and web agency iBec Creative, founded Wildwood Oyster Co. in 2018. She was honored on the Mainebiz 40 under 40 list in 2022.

The Flying Solo shows marked the debut of McKinnell’s Wildwood Oyster bags and Seaweed Jewelry brands in the international spotlight.

During the shows, her colorful creations were paired with clothing by Reb Lab of Brazil; Arohi of India; France's Bye by Bitch; and Gidi Sole, a Canadian men’s bespoke shoe brand.

'Organized chaos'

McKinnell said she found the shows to be fast-paced and unpredictable, with people sewing things on models as they walked out onto the runway.

“It’s everything you would imagine behind the scenes — the organized chaos of a fashion show,” she recalled. “I love shows like ‘Project Runway'" — Bravo's fashion-focused reality series — "and it was just like that.”

McKinnell said she was also pleasantly surprised to see some male models wearing the bags down the runway.

“It was inspiring to see the male models rock their Wildwood bags,” she said. “Maybe we’ll come up with more specific men’s products in the future.”

The spotlight didn’t end after the event, either. McKinnell’s creations will remain on display in the U.S. fashion capital for at least four months in the Copper Room, Flying Solo’s private press and celebrity stylist showroom at 419 Broome St. and a nearby Flying Solo store at 420 West Broadway.

“To have this opportunity where people who are in the press and influencers can touch it, feel it, hold it, it’s a different way of getting discovered,” McKinnell said.

McKinnell’s bags and jewelry "that walked the runway" in the Big Apple are also available for purchase online, each with a personal note from the designer to the buyer.

Asked whether she aspires to go to other fashion shows like Paris Fashion Week, McKinnell said she's "adding it to my vision board.”

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