The Masterminds Behind the Tote You’ve Seen Everywhere

Photo: Courtesy of MZ Wallace

First it was on the arm of a close friend, then the arm of a co-worker, and then it was five people on a subway car. Slowly but surely, MZ Wallace’s signature quilted tote started showing up everywhere. It’s not an It-bag in the traditional, highly Instagrammable sense, but it is in the sense that an army of New Yorkers have decided to carry it to the office, to the gym, and to Sunday brunch.

The women behind the bag are Monica Zwirner and Lucy Wallace Eustice. They founded the company in 1999 but really gained traction in the past year or so. You can’t take a precious mini bag everywhere, but the MZ Wallace tote can always be close by. We spoke with Zwirner and Wallace Eustice about the other things they really love.

How do you thank someone for a gift?
Lucy Wallace Eustice: With a thank-you note, handwritten.
Monica Zwirner: I always handwrite a note. I have stationery from Smythson — the font is printed in dark purple ink and the envelope is lined with purple tissue paper. It sounds brash but it’s actually very classic with a twist.

What would you never wear?
LWE: One-shouldered anything.
MZ: Clip-on earrings.

What’s your dream vacation?
LWE: At least two weeks. five-star hotel. Car or bikes. Good food. Good museums. No tech. My husband and children and NO agenda. Time to wander and discover.
MZ: Spending the month of January in Uruguay. I’ve been traveling with my family there for the past few winter holidays, and I always leave feeling like I wish I had more time.

What’s a good book on your coffee table right now?
LWE: Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz.
MZ: The Sweet Flypaper of Life. It’s a book with images by the great photographer Roy DeCarava and a prose poem by Langston Hughes. It was originally published in 1955 and just republished so it’s finally available again.

Favorite piece of furniture in you home/ office right now?
LWE: A pair of George Smith Kilim chairs.
MZ: We have a large dining table which was made by the artist Franz West; it’s totally timeless in design and the wood is exceptionally beautiful.

Last show you binged watched?
LWE: Rake (Australian version).
MZ: The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s horrifying, and yet I couldn’t stop watching.

Secret to hosting a good dinner party?
LWE: Good lighting, great food and plenty of top shelf alcohol.
MZ: A great guest list and good wine.

What is a trend you like right now?
LWE: Urban explorer.
MZ: Maximalism.

One you don’t understand?
LWE: Big buttons.
MZ: Poké.

What’s another decade you’d like to live in and why?
LWE: The 1950s, because there was a moment post World War II of hope, possibility and abundance.
MZ: Berlin in the 1920s; the fashion, art, music and literature were all unparalleled.

What’s one piece of clothing you can’t part with?
LWE: A vintage 1970s Lewis Leather motorcycle jacket.
MZ: My classic Burberry trench coat. It’s my go-to coat when I travel and somehow, even after 15 years, it still always feels “right.”

Favorite museum or gallery?
LWE: The Met.
MZ: David Zwirner, duh!

Shoes you wear most often?
LWE: Hermès riding boots.
MZ: Black Dior boots. I purchased a pair two years ago and am still obsessed.

What’s your favorite…

LWE: Peonies
MZ: Lily of the Valley

LWE: Brooks Brothers Men’s 100 percent cotton with no elastic and a drawstring waist.
MZ: Olatz.

LWE: Rigaud Cypres
MZ: For the winter I’m obsessed with The Guild candle No. 1 “Bois Du Guild.” Its’ woody and warm and perfect for the cold season. Kerzon from Paris has scents named after Parisian neighborhoods and the scent I love for spring and summer is “Tuileries Palais Royal.” It smells like freshly cut hyacinth — clean, bright and sunny — just what I want to have in the house in the warm months.

LWE: Frédéric Malle “Portrait Of A Lady” (winter) and “Lys Mediterranee” (summer).
MZ: Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion. I find it to be one of the most unforgettable scents I’ve smelled.

LWE: Rimowa
MZ: The aluminum Rimowa carry-on. I almost never check my bag and I find I can get a lot into their carry-on.

LWE: Falke
MZ: Falke

MZ: Most recently I’m loving the Emilie T-shirt from Goop.

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The Masterminds Behind the Tote You’ve Seen Everywhere