What’s New: Handbags

A woman’s handbag is her best friend. She takes it everywhere and it’s always within reach. As craft retailers, you can harness that market by wowing customers with the latest designs and styles from these seven studios.

Little Man Clutch” by Christine Guanipa of Little Man.

Little Man Clutch” by Christine Guanipa of Little Man.

Art has always been a part of Christine Guanipa’s life. A former art teacher based in Whitinsville, Mass., she uses her love of graphic design to create functional, versatile and affordable handbags and accessories through her company Little Man. Guanipa’s work ranges from retro to modern designs, and for good reason. “We endeavor to have every woman know the pleasure of owning a Little Man,” she says.

“Tokyo,” “Napa” and “5th Avenue Clutch” by Stella Page of Stella Page Design.

“Tokyo,” “Napa” and “5th Avenue Clutch” by Stella Page of Stella Page Design.

The combination of whimsy and luxury inspires the work of Stella Page, designer and founder of Stella Page Design. The daughter of an architect and a fashion connoisseur, she is a natural-born artist. The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate currently creates one-of-a-kind handbags in her Moss Landing, Calif., studio. Each of her leather accessories is a numbered work of art, complete with a registered certificate of authenticity.

Embroidered “Pamela Clutch” by Cheyne Little of Cut Out and Collect.

Embroidered “Pamela Clutch” by Cheyne Little of Cut Out and Collect.

Cut Out and Collect began as Cheyne Little’s attempt to “avoid graduate school, jobs involving fax machines and other adult endeavors,” she laughs. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art history, Little traveled around South-east Asia, and found herself spending more time in fabric markets than in museums. After returning to Arlington, Texas, she launched her business to make products that emphasize creativity and individuality. Each handbag and accessory is designed, embroidered and created one at a time.

Large and small “Pearl” bags by Christiane White of Tutela Handbags.

Large and small “Pearl” bags by Christiane White of Tutela Handbags.

The film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” left a mark on Christiane White of Tutela Handbags: “Holly Golightly looked smashing, but she always wore the same dress. Changing accessories made it look different,” she explains. “I learned that all you need is one simple outfit and a lot of accessories.” After working in boutiques as a buyer, she was inspired to create her own line of handbags. For the past seven years, White has focused on accessories for everyday use in fun prints from her Wheat Ridge, Colo., studio.

"Classic Messenger Bag” by Lisa Zawacki of Gorilla Sacks.

“Classic Messenger Bag” by Lisa Zawacki of Gorilla Sacks.

When Lisa Zawacki read an article in 2005 about the afterlife of billboards, she learned that non-degradable vinyl signs are simply thrown away. Drawing on her passion for sustainability, she collected some of the retired billboards and discovered she could make messenger bags with the leftover materials—and Gorilla Sacks was born. Today Zawacki creates unique bags from upcycled materials in her Atlanta, Ga., studio.

“Miramar” and “Del Mar” in kaleidoscope fuschia by Carol Hirashima of Chira Designs.

“Miramar” and “Del Mar” in kaleidoscope fuschia by Carol Hirashima of Chira Designs.

Carol Hirashima’s business in Goleta, Calif., began as a hobby. In 2001, she launched Chira Designs, defining her lines with fabrics that range from classic to eco-friendly. “Change happens gradually, and with each step we are doing our part to lessen our impact on earth,” Hirashima says of her fabric choices for her totes, cosmetic bags, handbags and other accessories.

“Long Clutch—Frog” in a gold frame by Debbie Brooks.

“Long Clutch—Frog” in a gold frame by Debbie Brooks.

Debbie Brooks is first and foremost an artist. The Pratt Institute graduate was formerly a design director for media giants such as the Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon and FAO Schwarz. After years of working for others, she decided to create her own collection of original pop art using a non-traditional canvas: handbags. Her handpainted works, created in Gardiner, N.Y., are attached to big names such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nathan Lane.

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