Interviewed the fabulous Shana Luther of
for this Designer Profile.
Shana Luther handbags are designed + constructed in Brooklyn, NY for the modern and independent woman.
Look below for my interview/questionnaire with her!
Shana began studying fashion design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and one day while walking through NYC, she spotted an independent handbag boutique – inspiring her so much that she ran back to her studio to create her own. From that SML bags was born. As her company grew and spaces became too cramped for production and money for a larger space became an issue. With the help of her husband, she launched a Kickstarter campaign and went above & beyond the goal. SML Handbags turned into Shana Luther handbags and this independent designer is rockin’ the business. How inspiring is that?!
I love your philosophy, “Modern, clean design made with thoughtfully sourced materials and impressive craftsmanship. Luxurious yet tough, my designs are meant to be worn.” Clearly you are a handbag connoisseur… have you always been this way, or was it shoes or what drew you to handbags?
•It was during my Pratt days when I began to really start getting into handbags. We all carry bags and if you have to carry one, make it count! I started drafting patterns, making prototypes and it just grew from there.
You went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY to study college. What were your favorite courses there? What were you involved with in high school or before college that influenced you to go here?
•Pratt was great and I loved most of my classes there- mainly fashion illustration because we had such a kick-ass professor. Back then, Pratt did not have any accessory classes. If they did, I would have definitely been taking those.
Before going to Pratt, I was enrolled at a fine art high school for my junior and senior year. I studied all of the arts (painting, sculpture, photography, etc) and that’s what ultimately led me into design.
So it sounds like your clever husband helped you out along the way, along with supporters via Kickstarter. If Kickstarter hadn’t pulled through, what would you have done?
•Yes, the Hubs had the brilliant idea of doing a Kickstarter campaign and shot, edited and created the video for it. He’s been extremely instrumental in pushing me to branch out on my own and create my own brand.
I’m very grateful to have had a successful Kickstarter campaign! If the project had been unsuccessful, I would have still created my first collection, however it would have taken me significantly longer without the support.
What are the most rewarding things about owning your own business and designing handbags?
•Being a handbag designer, the best thing for me is always seeing my sketches come to life in the form of a prototype or sample. In addition to that, having happy customers really makes any week better.
Working for yourself can be very rewarding and being able to dictate your own schedule is very attractive (throwing in that load of laundry at 2 PM is always helpful!).
On the flip side, what are the most difficult and challenging things?
•I suppose not having people to just bounce ideas off of on a day-to-day basis- I work solo right now. I have mentors that I seek out when I really need help with something, which is invaluable to me.
Do you have a favorite type of leather or material you like to work with?
•I love leather and for most of my collection I use cowhides. I use various weights- sometimes soft and drapey (William Tote) and other times structured (Charlie Tote). All of my bags are lined in 100% cotton print. The prints I use are light in color so you’ll never be looking for something in a dark bag!
Do you dye your own leather? If so, what is that process like? Or what is the color selection process like? Do you go into a collection with colors in mind or do you see the colors when sourcing materials and are like “OH! That’s the one!”
•The leather is dyed at the leather factory and sometimes dyed to order. I love picking and choosing my color palette and sometimes it takes me weeks to settle on a color collection. A good friend of mine has an impeccable eye for color and sometimes I’ll present her my palette to get her advice. Other times, I’ll find a leather that I love and create my whole collection based around that one.
Do you have a specific woman in mind that you design for? Who is she?
•My girl knows fashion and what’s going on in the world but is not one to dress in head to toe labels. She likes mixing high and low, knows what looks good on her and appreciates quality design. She reads up on her daily blogs- DIY, design and fashion blogs- likes to cook when she has time and is independent in more ways than one. I like to think of her as equal parts urban professional, a touch of boho-chic and totally current.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your line? How would you describe your own style?
•I’m a firm believer in having my designs speak for themselves without heavy, unnecessary hardware obstructing the lines. Modern, clean design made with impressive craftsmanship is my design philosophy. All of my designs are small-batch manufactured right here in Brooklyn. This gives back to my community and I’m so happy to be doing that.
I love getting dressed up but most days, you’ll see me in good fitting jeans, a silk blouse (I have a thing for silk blouses), and simple gold jewelry. I’ve been on a little tomboy-chic kick lately.
Can you describe the first time crafting a handbag and what that was like?
•Frustrating! I had to learn the proper construction techniques for bags and that took several tries. I no longer make the bags myself and it was really important to me to carry on that handcrafted quality when I began working with my local manufacturer.
What other things were you making pre-handbags?
•Well back when I was at Pratt it was all about clothing. I’ve made several things for myself but was never really drawn towards apparel design. When I began designing bags I knew I found my calling. Other than that, all of our couch and bed pillows are my creation and I’ve been known to whip up curtains every now and then.
If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing?
•I wanted to be a professional dancer when I was growing up, so perhaps that. If not that then I would have some sort of career in another aspect of the design world, maybe interior design.
Why did you start Shana Luther Handbags?
•I suppose it was always my long-term goal. I used to produce all of my designs myself but I wanted to incorporate design elements that I wasn’t able to produce without the help of more industrial equipment. That’s when I began knocking on local manufacturers doors and finally found the perfect fit with one in the same borough as me. At that point my handmade bag line turned into a more refined, sophisticated, and grown up brand.
What are your goals for the future with Shana Luther Handbags and also just personal goals?
•I want to be doing the same thing as I am know, but on a broader scale. More styles, more color ways and perhaps a unisex bag is in my near future. I want to maintain my independency as a brand and continue working with small boutiques across the country. Getting feedback and forming relationships with boutique owners is really important to me and I want to continue to foster that.
What do you think are the most important things to look for in a bag?
•Quality and design. Most women are hard on their bags with good reason- it carries our essentials. A well made, quality leather bag can be expensive but it will last you many, many years. Design is equally important because you don’t want to spend good money on a trendy new bag only to have it be “out” next season.
I design with both of these elements in mind. All of my styles, although current and modern, are staples and will be classics for seasons to come.
Who are your favorite artists/musicians or just overall inspirations?
•I’m a rock n roll gal and love me some good old classic rock and blues. Jack White, Zepplin, and the Stones are always in rotation at my house. When I need to change it up, I listen to more modern artists, such as Haim, PJ Harvey and 90’s hip hop. Really, anything with a good beat makes me happy!
Overall, my inspiration can come from anywhere and I’m sure most designers can attest to that. Cars, furniture, vintage handbags, and general Brooklyn street style are pillars of inspiration for me.
See more from Shana Luther here: