Studio Visit: Williamsburg Handbag Designer Kelly Reid

New Zealand born designer Kelly Reid is a one-woman handbag wunderkind, whipping up batches of 100 percent handmade satchels on a single, unbreakable Singer sewing machine.

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Catherine Blair Pfander/tThe Thread
With the exception of the brass hardware, literally every inch of Reid's handbags is completely hand-made, "This guy I buy zippers from all the time finally showed me how to make them myself," laughs Reid. "It's unbelievably easy and it's cut my sewing time in half"
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Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
New Zealand native Kelly Reid first settled on US shores six years ago, with a coveted internship at Derek Lam. "I was always making bags for myself or filling orders for friends," explains Reid. "Even recently a friend lost her favorite handbag on the subway, so I whipped up a replacement." We caught up with the designer at her converted Williamsburg apartment and studio to talk spring handbag styles—or, as Reid refers to them, "bagable bags."
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Working solo on a single vintage Singer machine—a $50 score Reid claims she couldn't live without—each handbag takes an hour and a half of uninterrupted work to produce, an improvement from 4 hours on a less capable machine. "Typically, I like to work backwards," explains Reid, who often finds inspiration for new styles in vintage finds that she pulls apart and rebuilds into customized patterns. "I like knowing where I'm going to end first."
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Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
"I usually design in-season rather than producing collections six months out," says Reid, whose latest collection of sturdy leather satchels were inspired by Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider." The result is that she can satisfy current obsessions and inspirations at a moment's notice, rather than keeping a cahe ideas. A selection of reasonably priced zipper pouches and wallets—"great when you're getting on a plane and just need the essentials at hand—round out this season's offering.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
For spring, Reid updated her signature satchel, "The Barbara," named for her stylish mother, in a soft fringed suede. Our favorite was this seafoam green addition with gold hardware. "My mother was always saying 'put more pockets!' So I did, and peoples seem to really like it!" Other colors this season include a rich tobacco, aquamarine and stark white.
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Reid keeps a stash of authentic equestrian hardware on hand at all times to incorporate into her latest styles. "I like being able to incorporate a few real vintage elements," says Reid. Indeed, the sturdy hardware is what gives the bags their unique, rough-n-tumble appeal.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/tThe Thread
With the exception of the brass hardware, literally every inch of Reid's handbags is completely hand-made, "This guy I buy zippers from all the time finally showed me how to make them myself," laughs Reid. "It's unbelievably easy and it's cut my sewing time in half"
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