MZ Wallace Has Built a Successful Brand of Utilitarian, Untrendy and Unfussy Handbags

As MZ Wallace grew, so did its sense of purpose. Ms. Zwirner is married to the German art dealer and gallerist David Zwirner, and in 2011, she and Ms. Wallace Eustice launched a special-edition bag, designed by the artist Raymond Pettibon, to raise money for Artists For Haiti, a non-profit organization founded by Mr. Zwirner and the actor Ben Stiller. Since then, they have produced special-edition bags with artists and organizations such as Kerry James Marshall, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Glenn Ligon and others — with 100 percent of proceeds donated to a chosen non-profit organization.

“I love to carry my Glenn Ligon bag because it often prompts conversations about what’s most important to me, which is art and artists,” said Thelma Golden, 57, the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, for which MZ Wallace raised close to $100,000 with Mr. Ligon in 2014 for its art education programs. “It gives me the chance to be the museum curator I am.”

“To me, the bag is the canvas,” said the artist Nick Cave, 64, who most recently designed a colorful MZ Wallace tote where all proceeds went to support educational programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Facility Foundation. “It’s this extension of an art practice. And I love the idea that it is out in the world, being seen and being recognized.”

Today, MZ Wallace employs 40 people and offers over 400 different styles. Much of its manufacturing is now done in China and Vietnam. 60 percent of their sales occur online, from their website, which launched in 2004. Ms. Zwirner and Ms. Wallace Eustice said in the last three years the brand has grown by 20 percent and, excluding the year they opened, have only seen year-over year growth.

Ms. Eustice and Ms. Zwirner have been approached on several occasions about selling their company, which is still privately held. They are open to the idea. But they also like where they are. The two have lunch every day at the office. They remain close friends. “We have a laugh,” said Ms. Wallace Eustice. “You have to have fun along the way. Otherwise, what’s the point?”