Do bikes and fashion belong together? Nearly four years ago, I decided to tackle that question by starting Bike Pretty . While bike-riding has been a big part of my life for over a decade, fashion has played an even bigger role.
Growing up in a small town south of San Francisco, I spent hours picking through thrift shops looking for vintage treasures. I collected old sewing and pattern making books where I learned the finer points of apparel construction. I devoured magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar (under the late, great Liz Tilberis), and imports like The Face and L'Officiel.
Fast forward a few years, I found myself about to graduate from F.I.T.'s International Fashion Design program in Italy when my professor hooked me up with my first real job as an assistant handbag designer in Florence, Italy. That's where I grew to love designing products that not only look beautiful, but actually make your life better.
To make a great bag, I learned that you have to respect your customer (as well as admire her for her impeccable taste). What you carry determines what you'll be able to accomplish, how far you'll be able to go, and how ready you'll feel to take on any challenges that come your way.
And like an artist's favorite brush, a great handbag helps you express your personal style with ease and versatility. We might change our clothes everyday, but we hang on to a favorite handbag for weeks (even years!) at a time.
A designer considers all this and more when she decides which details to include and, more importantly, which to leave out. An emphasis on lightweight, high tech materials and a utilitarian form limits the bag to sporty occasions where style is an afterthought.
On the other hand, a beautifully embellished bag whose weight digs into your shoulder, even when half empty, is a failure no matter how lovely it looks sitting on a shelf.
Even though I no longer work as a handbag designer everyday, I also haven't completely put it aside. When I was designing the Bike Pretty Satchel, I learned all about how to make small-batch leather products in California. I even bought an industrial sewing machine so that I could "rapid prototype" my designs at home.
Sourcing the leather was a highlight of the design process. When I worked in Florence, we only used Italian materials, so I had to start over and learn all about the California tanneries. I also connected with Bay Area manufacturing organizations like SF Made and People Wear SF, as well as meeting with local bag makers big and small.
Looking back, my initial goal was to simply to make a living sewing up leather bike bags for fashionable cyclists. But by putting everything I had into pursuing that dream, I managed to create a multitude of interesting opportunities for myself. Getting to know the Bike Pretty community, a stint as MonkeyLight's social media consultant, even a gig teaching pattern-making and sewing to a designer at Timbuk2, they all came from pursuing my passion.
One of my favorite collaborations from this fruitful period is the Cass Clutch. Designed by Debra Szidon, an interior designer and family friend, I was lucky enough to work with Debra on the product development, technical design and materials sourcing for her vision.
When you work in design, very few ideas will ever make it into the hands of the public. It's just the nature of the journey that most of the ideas you try will fail. So it's extra exciting to see the Cass Clutch so close to production. Currently generating tons of interest on Kickstarter, this 70's inspired handbag marries minimalist design with velvety suede and buttery nappa leather.
Its versatility comes from its simplicity. All heavy hardware has been eliminated. Instead, the bag is a capacious convertible tote that can be carried by the reinforced handle when you need extra space by day or folded over and used as a clutch by night.
Check out the Cass Clutch on Kickstarter and get your hands on one with a special crowdfunding early-bird discount. Hurry, because they are going fast!
Get the look:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Which means if you click on the link and buy something, I might earn a small commission on the purchase.