I’ve been making handbags for almost 15 years. It’s a weird obsession that started in 1995 after I spent a semester studying in London. A few years ago, I had small business producing really cute, hot-pink PVC laptop bags in China. As I learned about the state of our planet and the impact of the fashion industry, I felt increasingly guilty about the path I was on. My new line, reMade USA, was borne out of my frustration over the dearth of durable materials that didn’t harm the environment. My solution: Used leather, a material found in spades at thrift stores in the form of jackets, many of which are probably en route to a landfill. Because no two jackets are alike, the process of deconstruction and creating a bag is unique.
I have a couple favorite thrift stores that I like to shop for my jackets. Large, black ’80s jackets tend to be my best find; they yield a lot of leather and are usually in really good condition. Plus, the details are usually pretty cool.
Once I have my jacket, I usually make some quick sketches of possible bag shapes, taking the garment’s details into consideration.
I start by disassembling the jacket at the seams, discarding the lining, and often, its big, rotted shoulder pads. Next, I clean the pieces I am going to use with leather oil, and if it has a musty smell, I hang it in the sun for a couple days.