Have you ever had one of those coffee meetings that seem too good to be true? Well that's how I felt when I grabbed an Americano with Eden Gelan at Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors when she was passing through Austin from Ethiopia for a wedding.
Eden (as you'll learn more about in her interview below) is working with leather tanners & artisans in Addis Ababa and was looking for partners in the US who were interested in getting handbags & other leather goods made for their shop. We have been looking for a while now for artisans groups who are ready to expand and are able to make handbags & other leather goods for our shop.
That leads me to our big news: I'm excited to announce that Purse & Clutch has launched it's own label! This gives us more design input & allows us to work more directly with the talented men & women who are making the items. We're starting out with two gorgeous styles: this Rugged Leather Handbag + this Convertible Crossbody & Wristlet. This first batch doesn't have our branding on it yet, but it's coming!
Since I've had the pleasure of getting to know Eden over the past few months, I wanted her to share a bit of her story with y'all as well:
Tell us a bit about your background & how you got into handbag production with artisans.
My background is law and I studied that because i wanted to bring impacts to society in general and I wanted to give service to community and work on bringing justice for marginalized community.
After I graduated, working in what I studied was hard to accomplish what I wanted to do, therefore me and few of my friends worked in an organization that supports people living with HIV/AIDS. I worked in economic empowerment program in giving them skills and teaching them to produce items for sell. I have noticed how it brought impact in their lives. I worked there for few years and I knew I wanted to pursue something similar and I was able to work in giving business training with former commercial sex workers and connecting them with business that are providing jobs.
When Sseko Designs started working in Ethiopia I worked as their local agent in Ethiopia. I learned so much about leather and leather products, since I always had a passion of starting my own social fair trade business, leather handbags became the start of it all and Sseko became one of my clients.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It's hard to say, cause everyday seems to have it's own thing these days. I get up in the morning come to the workshop/my office see the work flow and update with my production manager, sit in my office and do emails and phone calls. Before the end of the day there will be one government office or meeting that I need to go for some reason.
Can you walk us through the production of a handbag? What is your personal favorite part of the process?
First is making sure that you have all the materials ready before staring to produce anything, once you have everything, you start in cutting the hide (this could be a little frustrating because you have to spend time in picking the perfect parts of the hide that you can use for the bag and cut out the rest is scraps):
- Make a pattern
- Leather picking
- Cutting according to pattern of the body
- Preparing (putting what goes on together and glue some part)
- Cutting lining according to pattern
- Stitching body part
- Stitching lining
- Attaching lining and hard wear
- Quality control
My favorite part is seeing when the bag is done and are ready to be packed. I know the process and how hard they work everyday and when I see the results of their hands makes me happy and I always imagine some person will wear that bag somewhere : )
When is the last time you lost track of time?
That happens a lot, if i am at my office and workshop since there is always things to do. I am always surprised that I feel I didn't finish everything everyday but the day is over. Not complaining! : )
Have you read anything good lately?
The last book that I read Soulful Spirituality by David G. Benner (its a really good book that I already reread again). Currently a friend gave me a daily meditations with Frederick Buchner Listening to your Life.
Be sure to check out our new handbags here & here and let us know what you think! And without giving TOO much away, the upcoming June: Ethical Entertaining Collection for ...and Such includes a gorgeous item from Eden & her team - add a reminder to your calendar for the First Friday in June at noon when the collection launches.