If you don’t wear fur and leather (I don’t… :)), you may find difficult shopping for accessories, especially for bags and purses. You spot a nice little bag at the mall, you cheek the label, and of course is made of leather – and then you see another one, and it’s leather – and then another one – leather, leather, and more leather!
Before going mad, or just opting to carry all your stuff inside your pockets, you should consider the idea of NOT shopping randomly, but to look for companies and brands that manufacture cruelty-free accessories, like PANSY MAIDEN VEGAN BAGS.
I first met Laura Collins, founder/maker of Pansy Maiden, at the FARM FEST/ Maple Farm Sanctuary in June, and more recently I had the pleasure to interview her to discover more about her bags and her mission.
Laura, why did you decide to start your own company of cruelty-free bags?
At the age of 29, after having already dipped my toes in the waters of three different careers, I found myself working a dull office job that had nothing to do with who I was or whom I wanted to be. I decided to combine creativity, my own morals, and activism into one career handmade by me. I had designed and (literally–sans machine) hand-sewed a couple of bags for myself in college which were a hit with friends and strangers on the street. I thought back to that pride and accomplishment I had felt and thought that maybe I could attempt to design a few different bags and make my own line of handbags that would reflect social responsibility, kindness to animals, and at the same time, fashion forward.
When you design your bags and accessories, which kind of woman do you have in mind?
I design for women who are a lot like myself. I love to dress to the nines–sometimes. Other times, I’m happy in a simple tank dress with flip flops. My bags are designed with versitility in mind. Most of my bags are designed to look just as good with a night-on-the-town outfit as they look with a “I’m schlepping to the supermarket” outfit. Pansy Maiden women, like myself, purchase with practicallity in mind as well. My bags aren’t dainty. They are super-durable and made to be abused. All the materials I use, from the waxed canvas, to the poly thread, to the hardware, are some of the most durable materials available in the market. I tend to stick to the same bag for weeks at a time; so do my customers. We need bags with will hold up over time and still look good. My customers also like lots of pockets to keep themselves organized. We are all on-the-go type women who don’t have time to search endlessly through our bags to find something like a T-pass or pen. No-nonsense, fashion-forward. That’s a Pansy Maiden woman.
What and who are you inspired by when you design?
I take a lot of my inspiration from my customers’ needs. When I am a vendor at various events, I hear lots of great feedback from customers and potential customers. Comments like, Oh, I love this bag but I wish it had this or that…I’m not always able to work with every customer’s idea but all comments gets stowed away in my brain and I pick them out the next time I find myself wearing my designer hat.
I also take great inspiration from Coco Chanel and Neil Young. Yes, it sounds strange but hear me out. Both Coco and Neil know that less is more. Coco’s designs were never garish–they hosted a minimalist aesthetic. Every single design element had a purpose. Same with the music of Neil Young. For instance, his guitar solo in Cinnimon Girl is one note. One note! I subscribe to that minimalist philosophy. Every piece of hardware I choose, every fabric, every stitch serves a purpose.
Do you have tips/ recommendations/ ideas to share with fellow fashionistas, who want to be stylish and environmentally-friendly at the same time?
I am basically a bootstrapping, start-up entrepreneur. This means I do not have a whole lot of extra cash to spend on fashionable wares. In today’s market, those items that are sustainable and/or and made-in-the-usa (it’s important to me that I support other indie designers who are keeping their production in the USA) are usually pretty expensive due to the fact that sustainably sourced materials cost the designers more so that effects their bottom line. I am sort of addicted to the wonderful feeling I get when I vote with my dollars–when I choose to spend a little extra cash in order to support companies who make social responsiblity a priority. So, I personally save up in order to purchase a few classic pieces. I don’t go too trendy because I want to be able to wear these beautiful (and expensive) pieces for years to come. And if I find something I really like, I’ll usually save to buy another just like it but in a different color. I also frequent shops here in Boston that specialize in new-to-you clothes such as Second Time Around and even Buffalo Exchange. I’ve been really lucky to have found some high-end pieces for low-end money.
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