This Maker’s Lookbook Shows You How to Style Your New Fave Spring Bag
One thing’s for sure: here at Brit + Co, our love for makers and shakers knows no bounds. So when one of our fave artisans, bag designer LA Caldwell of Minnie + George, told us she was looking to tap style bloggers we stalk on the reg to model in her latest lookbook, we couldn’t wait to hear more about the project — and get in on the action ourselves.
How could you blame us? The true stars of the campaign, nine luxe leather bags, all boast a balanced mix of fashion and function you’d expect from a Portland-based maker, not to mention are made with expert craftsmanship — eight of the bags are hand-stitched by LA herself. “[Hand-stitching has] become a dying craft and I love the idea of being a part of bringing it back. It’s an old and valuable tradition and process,” said LA. Also, hand-stitching is the strongest way to construct a bag. All the stitching is double needle saddle stitched, with an overhand knot in each stitch, so even if one side is severed the seam will not come undone. As a maker, there’s no better feeling than having a direct connection with what you’re making. I love the feeling of my hands being the tools and that I’m not dependent on a machine.”
From the ultra of-the-moment Circle Crossbody Bag to the twist on a classic Tote Bag to the Drawstring Bucket Bag, which goes from shoulder bag to cross body bag to backpack like that (more on that one later), this spring collection is too easy to imagine in your closet. “I love classic, minimalistic design. It’s timeless and works well with anyone’s personal style,” said LA.
To drive that point home, LA skipped orchestrating a traditional photo shoot — no controlled set, no professional models, no pre-approved wardrobe — and instead asked real girls to style the bags on themselves with zero creative direction or input. “I really wanted diversity in creative voice, ethnicity, style and point of view and I’m so excited that this group of talented women really represent that,” said LA. Enter the squad of style bloggers who each will post their own snaps of them + the bag in action on their own websites each day ’til the spring Minnie + George lookbook — a best-of collection of those posts — launches online Friday, May 8. “Each [girl] has her own personal style and it’s vastly different from the rest, yet there’s a Minnie + George bag that she loves and that’s perfect for her. I love that!” said LA. — us too. Follow along as each style blogger’s post goes up live for major spring styling tips starting right now with *my* style story about the convertible 3-in-1 Drawstring Bucket Bag.
I got my Minnie + George 3-in-1 Drawstring Bucket Bag delivered to our San Francisco office and was audibly oohing as I removed it from its packaging, an unusual reaction when an item of clothing or accessory isn’t black — my favorite color to wear. But the rich espresso brown tone of the leather and the contrasting tan drawstring made the bag an immediate standout in my stubbornly goth wardrobe.
Besides the hue, the details drew me in: the soft leather that will only get softer with time, the unique curl of the drawstring ends and the simple slide closure, the brassy hardware that is responsible for making this bag the transformer it is (plus, that new leather smell!). They make the bag feel like it was designed with intention and purpose — the markings of being maker-made.
As soon as I left work, I slung it over my other shoulder — the one not carrying my go-to (black) work tote, and noticed a few things right away. This bag was slightly smaller than the size of my everyday one, and its shape totally not conducive to holding my hunk of a work laptop. I saw these things as a pros right away. We’ve been writing about ways to spring clean your life on Brit + Co lately, and this Drawstring Bucket Bag is what would finally get me to detox my haul (and give my shoulders a much-deserved break). Furthermore, the fact that I couldn’t slide my laptop into my bag so easily felt like a good push for me to leave work at work and not beat up my bag lugging The Brick (my pet name for it) to and fro.
Now after about a week of use, it’s officially my new wear-everywhere bag. It fits my daily essentials like headphones, my planner, balm + lotion, wallet, phone and charger just fine. Plus there’s ample room for me to toss in accessories I might need on-set at the office *and* space for a few post-work splurges (with just a little organizational savvy, I stowed a pair of brand-new platform sneakers, a top and a scarf in my already-loaded-up bag).
Besides being functional, the shoe fits style-wise too. Not just because it’s pretty, but because it’s so versatile. To work, I sling it over my shoulder for easy access to my phone, transit card (both stowed conveniently in the inside pocket), and office keys, which, along with my sunglasses, I’ve started clipping to the bag’s swivel hooks and on the drawstring in between grommets for easy access. At bars or concerts, I use it as a crossbody bag to keep my hands free for cocktails and fist pumping respectively, and rest easy knowing it’s safe from creepers cinched up tightly.
Whenever I want to forget I have a load to carry at all, I unclip the straps and reposition them to convert the bag into a backpack — a stiff fit at first, but after a few takes the straps are feeling more worn in. Truth: there’s never been a chicer bag to bike around with. Oh yeah, and it’s definitely made me reconsider my preferred sartorial color palette: I’m now all for slipping earth tones into the mix. Baby steps are still steps.
What’s your go-to spring bag? Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the rest of the posts here to see how other style bloggers wear their Minnie + George bags before the official lookbook launch on Friday, May 8!
(Top photos via Minnie + George)
This Jewelry Designer Infuses ‘90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
This Jewelry Designer Infuses '90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
Vibrant hues, '90s-era boldness, and raw artisanal beauty — these are just a few of the characteristics that make the work of today's creative crush truly swoonworthy. Named for a potent Caribbean pepper, Tracey-Renee Hubbard's Scotchbonnet is a gorgeous line of earrings and accessories made by hand with love, thoughtfulness and a resolute passion for the art of making.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and super fan of Scotchbonnet! Like so many creative connections these days, I first connected with designer Tracey-Renee when she DM'ed the @britandco IG account and we featured her work in a story roundup of BIPOC makers. A few weeks later, she applied and won a scholarship to our first session of the Selfmade program where Brit and I both had the privilege of mentoring and working with Tracey-Renee on her brand, her business plan, and her mission. Since then she's been awarded a minority creative grant from JOANN Fabrics, and seriously upleveled her production process thanks to a collaboration with Glowforge. (PS: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Now I am thrilled to be able to share more about this brilliant maker's journey, inspiration and creative process in this edition of Creative Crushin'.
Anjelika Temple: Before we get into learning all about your creative inspiration, tell us a little about your background.
Tracey-Renee Hubbard: I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Yep, lots of cheese and cows. Growing up in Wisconsin right outside of Milwaukee provided me with a surprisingly diverse and eclectic foundation. My parents stressed the importance of academics, but they didn't believe that excelling at school needed to come at the expense of creativity or other hobbies. Art, music, books and softball were a big chunk of my childhood. Crafting and creating have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
One of my favorite shows to watch when I was growing up was "A Different World." It was about the college experience at a fictitious HBCU (Historically Black College/University) called Hillman College. Watching that show inspired me to go to Florida A&M University (an HBCU) where I received a BS in Business Management and an MBA.
The world changes quickly and I love learning new things! After completing my MBA program, I studied graphic design, multimedia art and completed the Merchandise Product Development program at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in San Francisco. My academic and professional experiences have given me the opportunity to live and work in lots of interesting places; but for now I am based in the San Francisco Bay area.
Anj: Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional artist/creative?
Tracey-Renee: Yep, but for a long time I was afraid to do it because of the "starving artist" stigma (all lies, btw). I tried to compartmentalize my creative practices as just a "hobby", but when something is truly in your spirit the desire never really goes away…and so now here I am!
Anj: What do you love about making things? What keeps the spark going for you?
Tracey-Renee: I've been inspired to create for as long as I can remember! I've always been fascinated by color, texture, travel and cultural connection. I grew up watching my grandmother quilt, sew and mend garments, I saw my Mom create beautiful home décor and heirloom holiday decorations and spent time in my Dad's workshop. Being surrounded by unique handmade items that hold special stories has fueled my passion for being a designer and maker.
Anj: Like so many artists, you've got a day job in addition to your creative hustle. Tell us about your career path.
Tracey-Renee: My first "real job" was in pharmaceutical sales and marketing. I loved the left brain/right brain mix of processing all the data and scientific information and then finding creative ways to relay that information to doctors and health care providers. That role really opened my eyes to the power of messaging and visual communication tools which ultimately led to me returning to school to study digital design and multimedia arts. I've had fun using my marketing and digital design skills in several different industries. I currently work as the Director of Marketing and Creative Strategy for a candy company. I spend a lot of time working in the digital realm – I think most of us do- and that makes me really appreciate the time I spend making handmade jewelry for Scotchbonnet.
Anj: Tell me more about your brand Scotchbonnet! How would you describe your brand's mission?
Tracey-Renee: I want to make pieces that are cherished - special but not so "precious" that they sit in a box stored away for special occasions that are far and few between. My accessories are known for their bold shapes, bright colors and eye-catching patterns. Each piece is handmade with love (I hope my customers can feel it when they wear their Scotchbonnet accessories)!
Scotchbonnet jewelry has been described as "conversation starters" and I love the fact that they connect people and get them to start conversing. I am excited about elevating those conversations by creating capsule collections connected to social causes; that way the chat can go beyond just "cute earrings, where'd you get them?"
Anj: At Brit + Co, we are enamored with bright colors, patterns and geometric shapes -- and clearly, you are too! How did you hone in on your aesthetic?
Tracey-Renee: I chose the name Scotchbonnet for my jewelry brand because scotch bonnet peppers add a distinctively potent spice to Caribbean food and I feel that my jewelry has the same vibe. My accessories are known for vibrant hues, bold shapes and eye-catching patterns. I am inspired by the flashiness of 90s hip-hop, the simplicity of modern luxury, and the raw beauty of artisan goods from the African Diaspora. My aesthetic continues to evolve based on the things I love, the places I've been and the community I want to serve.
Anj: We LOVED mentoring you + helping your business grow during our first Selfmade session. What were your main takeaways from the program and experience?
Tracey-Renee: Selfmade helped me understand the importance of having a clear vision and trusting my intuition. It can be inspirational watching other entrepreneurs "hustling and winning" on their social media feeds, but without clarity about my vision that "inspiration" can be overwhelming and make things confusing. It's easy to confuse movement with progress – Selfmade helped me craft an action plan that ensures each step builds momentum and accelerates me toward my goals. Selfmade also provided me with a vibrant, uplifting community of founders, entrepreneurs and go-getters.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Tracey-Renee: I take a break. We're inundated with "hustle culture" that can make us feel guilty for taking a break, but at the end of the day we're of no value to anyone when we're burnt out. When I have a creative block I usually log off for a while… there's this duality with the internet where on the surface it seems to be an endless pool of inspiration, but in reality everything that's on the internet has already been filtered or curated by someone else. Sometimes it's helpful to see things through a new lens and find inspiration in ("real" physical) books, at a museum or out in nature. Seeing things in a new light from a different angle can be a really refreshing creative jolt.
Anj: What does your workspace look like? What tools do you use and how has it changed over the years?
Tracey-Renee: I'd describe it as "choreographed chaos". It's organized enough so that I can be efficient with the administrative parts of my business like: inventory management, packing and shipping. It's creative enough so that it still feels inspiring, and it's tidy enough that it doesn't feel overwhelming to sit down and start working. It smells like coconut or tropical fruit (thanks to my candles) and it sounds like hip-hop, dance hall, soca or afrobeats.
The primary mediums I work with are wood, paint, glass beads and recently brass. With that being said my paint brushes, needle & thread and jeweler's saw are always within close reach. The most recent addition to my studio is my Glowforge Pro 3D laser printer; it is a game changer! It shrunk my product development cycle time infinitely. Prior to the Glowforge the process was time consuming and costly; now, I can literally "print" a new design within minutes of sketching out an idea. It's also been awesome when it comes to inventory management and sustainability. I no longer have to worry about over-producing or wasting materials; I can make exactly what I need right when I need it without any waste. The Glowforge can make millions of things and I'm excited about trying new design ideas in the future. I have a ton of sketches and inspo photos on my magnet board and in my notebooks waiting to be explored. (ICYMI: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Anj: What advice do you have for emerging artists and designers just getting started? What advice do you have for creatives struggling to find their unique voice?
Tracey-Renee: Start with your "why" and not your "what". Your "why" will be the secret weapon that competitors will never be able to touch. Once you have that part figured out; dive in! I think that now is a really exciting time for creatives. The rise of entrepreneurship powered by social media has removed a lot of barriers that used to make creative careers seem out of reach. Protect your work, but don't be afraid to put yourself (and your stuff!) out there. Connect with other artists and build a community, it's so important to have a sounding board for difficult times and a crew with whom you can celebrate your successes.
Anj: What's next for your brand?
Tracey-Renee: Scaling and growing in a way that feels authentic. I have new colors and new products coming soon and I am super excited about that! My upcoming premium capsule collections are close to my heart; designing jewelry inspired by social causes and having a "give back" component means the world to me. I want to keep having fun with my brand, sharing joy with fun colors and patterns and infusing love into each handmade piece.