By Margaret LeMay
The Bag Bash is an annual fundraising event for student scholarships put on by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Madison and Milwaukee chapters.
Billed as an evening of food, fun and creativity, the Bag Bash is a celebration of Susan Wohlitz and the advancement of Interior Design Education in her honor. This event raises money for the Susan Wohlitz Memorial Fund, which promotes the advancement of Interior Design and Education in the state of Wisconsin.
Every year designers and various attendees from the design community gather a team or work as individuals to create the sassiest bag of the night. IIDA Wisconsin provides decorating materials, but many people bring their own along with goodies to fill the bags with for auction. The evening includes appetizers, a silent auction and other entertaining activities. But by far the most entertaining part of the evening is the live auction. Bags are embellished in less than 2 hours and then placed on the auction block, fetching prices anywhere from $200-$700. The most coveted item is not always the creatively embellished bags, but what’s inside. Each bag has a random number inside. At the end of the auction a number is drawn and the winner walks away with a designer piece of furniture. This year it was ‘Le Corbusier’s iconic chair of Cassina from the Haworth collection, generously donated by Haworth and M&M Office Interiors from the Haworth collection.
I always approach these “networking”/industry events as opportunities to reconnect with people and make new alliances. The evening and attendees offered a mix of industry professionals and vendors to the trade. The bus ride from Madison to Delafield was a nice ice breaker and allowed people to mingle in a quieter and more relaxed setting (especially after the “Orange you glad you rode the bus Jonitinis” and “DIRRTy Valentines” libations were passed around – and around.)
I planned ahead only in that I brought leather upholstery scraps with me, and hoped to find a lone designer or smaller team I could collaborate with to make a bag. Some teams have their bags designed in advance, complete with a theme and inserts. The resounding theme for this year’s event emerged as 50 Shades of Grey and some of the “toys” placed inside the bags were enough to make the auctioneers blush. Our team inadvertently became part of the shades of gray theme as we billed ourselves as 4 Shady Ladies and Aaron. Our bag had four shades of grey materials along with leather piping and a little upholstered blue button. Once the bags were on the auction block the attendees put their networking skills to use. As the evening and auction progressed, business cards were exchanged, introductions were made, meetings were scheduled and deals were struck. Oh what a night.