Originally from Pennsylvania, handbag designer Shana Luther is now based in Brooklyn where she has lived for over 16 years.
HI SHANA! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO FOUND YOUR OWN LINE OF HANDBAGS?
I went to Pratt Institute for fashion design and after graduating stumbled upon a great bag in a little boutique. I’ve always been fascinated with bags and always thought if you have to carry one, why not make it an amazing design?
Not having the extra funds to purchase the bag, I went back to my studio to make it myself with my own design elements factored into it. Soon after, I was drafting patterns for many other styles I wanted to create. I worked on every stage of the production process from pattern making, sewing, marketing and selling. Now I work with a local manufacturer who cares just as much about the craftsmanship as I do.
WHAT KIND OF WOMAN DO YOU DESIGN FOR?
I design for the woman who is fashionably independent. She’s not one to dress in head to toe labels but she dresses with a modern edge. She appreciates amazing quality and independent designers.
WHAT QUALITIES ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN DESIGNING AND DEVELOPING YOUR PRODUCTS?
Materials are extremely important to me. You can have an amazing design but if it’s executed with poor materials, I believe you have a dud of a product. Obviously, design plays an equally important role and that’s the first stage of any process.
"Good design, excellent materials and quality craftsmanship are all integral to my design and production process."
Keeping manufacturing local: Die cutting
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES OF SOURCING AND PRODUCING LOCALLY?
It’s amazing having my manufacturer close by. I can stop in and bounce ideas off of him, check out the production process and get to know the actual employees who create my designs. That is invaluable to me. I share videos and behind the scenes photos of the production process so my customers can see what it actually takes to create a quality leather bag.
Transparency is important to me because it does cost more to produce products in the US, which is one of the main challenges. However, that extra money is just going back into our economy and I want my customers to be aware of that.
WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT INSPIRATIONS?
I love Manhattan but I’m always inspired by the slightly more laid-back style of Brooklyn.
"I feel as though Brooklyn women are super confident in who they are and dress for themselves as opposed to what’s trendy. That’s always inspiring to me."
WHO ARE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE ICONS?
Solange Knowles, Marion Cotillard, and Charlotte Gainsbourg to name a few.
Manufacturing the Charlie Tote
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OR REWARDING MOMENTS AS A DESIGNER?
Being chosen as a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards was very exciting, especially because it was during my debut season. Other than that, having happy customers is always an accomplishment to me!
Heat stamping logos onto leather
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS AND FUTURE SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?
Market research is key. I believe I could have executed better market research when I was creating my first collection. I thought I had a great idea as to who my girl was but after a season of selling, I realized I was slightly off. As my line continues to evolve, my girl will as well and it’s our job, as designers, to keep track of that. Other than that, have fun with it and go for it! You’ll learn so many things along the way that will surprise you but that’s what makes it thrilling.