Blair Ritchey Handbags
Fashion bag designer Blair Ritchey has been redefining functional luxury for women everywhere for the past few years with her ultra luxe handbags. Handcrafted from her studio in Cleveland, OH, Blair ensures that each bag is more than a purchase, but an experience. Of her purses, she claims that “it’s important to me that your experience with a Blair Ritchey handbag is unique and personal – from the moment you open your package to the moment you wear it for the first time.” We can get behind that small business logic! Read on to learn more about what inspires Blair’s beautiful designs, and what her creative process is.
What led you into the business? My strong desire to create is what pushed me to start my own business. I was always curious about design and the construction of garments. My first internship was with a handbag designer in New York, which is what first sparked my interest. I truly think if I had interned for a hat maker I would be designing hats.
Where do you find design inspiration? With the internet, especially social media, there is not a lack of inspiration – which is wonderful, but it can also dilute creativity. The design process is my favorite. On a daily basis I am absorbing the different trends I see on WWD, blogs, and magazines. When I am out I love watching how women interact with their bags. This helps me design bags that women want to wear. I recently edited pieces from my line like the foldover clutch. Foldovers can be cumbersome and many women, like myself, are burdened by having to carrying it throughout the night. In replace of it I designed the PAK, a more structured bag that fits comfortably under your arm with a detachable shoulder strap. The Belt Bag and Kantner Crossbody are also sleek styles that have multiple options. I enjoy creating designs that are classically fashion forward with subtle unique touches.
What is your favorite bag that you can’t live without? The Belt Bag! I love the ease and functionality of it, often times it gives my outfit the little extra something that it needs. The convenience of being able to take off the belt strap and use it as a clutch is great.
As an artist, are there mediums beyond making handbags that you enjoy? I love sketching and playing around with watercolor. It feels great to create something just for myself, where I don’t have to worry about whether someone else will like it.
What do you find most challenging about owning and operating a small business? How incredibly hard it is to stop working at the end of the day! Finding balance has been more difficult than I thought.
Her 5 Handbag Must-Haves?
- Moleskin calendar
- Striped Cardholder
- If there is room, some sort of candy!
I really cherish the relationships that I have formed with customers and other business owners since starting. The support system that develops when you value personal growth and the desire to see others achieve is incredibly rewarding.
Did you take any formal schooling for design/fashion design? After graduating with my bachelors in Psychology, I decided to get my Associates in Fashion Marketing.
What makes your bags + designs uniquely Blair Ritchey? I try to stay true to the simple, functional, luxury aesthetic that the line was created around. For me, a handbag should be a timeless piece of luxury that only gets better with age. I tend to scrutinize over the little details that I know will often go unnoticed, however they’re what give the bags that extra special touch.
What is a typical day in the office for you? Almost every day starts off the same. I try to be up around 6:30 am for a walk with my pup, Monroe, and to see my husband off before he leaves for work. Coffee immediately after our walk, and with Monroe at my feet, I check my inbox for any urgent emails and respond back to any messages from customers. I also check for the newest post on One Fine Day blog – there’s just something about her bright mood boards and cheery personality that gets my day off to a great start. From there I begin tackling the most important task of that day, sometimes it is packing orders and other times it is cutting and assembling bags and tassels all day. I do my best to stop at some point to snap a picture for Instagram. The day gets away from me when I’m in the zone making bags or working on new designs. Monroe is good about keeping me on a schedule with his walks so I typically will check email again after we come back inside. I always joke that he thinks I stay home to cater to him, but he is good to have around to break up my day.
What was the first bag you ever made? How have your designs evolved? The Mini Lulu, a simple zip clutch with a detachable tassel was the first bag that I made. My designs have evolved from what I have come to want as well as feedback I have received from friends, family, and customers. When I first started I had to tailor my designs around what I was capable of making and what the market trend was at the time. However, over time my customer base has grown and consists of women who are looking for handbags that are more fashion forward and not trendy per say. Recently, I cut out bags from the line that were no longer in sync with my personal style, such as large slouchy zip clutches and foldovers. If I’m going to use a clutch I want it to have a bit more structure so it comfortably fits under my arm like the PAK. I do not think accessories should be cumbersome. It is important that they’re functional while gorgeously complimenting your outfit. I think a lot of women are like me in that committing to carrying around a clutch all day or night is irritating, so I design bags that give you the option. The PAK, Kantner Crossbody, and Belt Bag all come with detachable straps so they can be carried as clutches as well. To me, that is the epitome of functional luxury.
If you could see any woman wearing one of your bags, who would it be? I look forward to the day that I’m walking down the street and I see someone I don’t know sporting one of my bags.
What brands are you + your designs inspired by? I love menswear. The simple designs and crisp clean lines allow the focus to be on the beautiful leather/fabric and well thought out construction. A few of my favorites for Spring 2015 are Kolor and Andrea Pompilio.
If you could only have one bag, what color would it be? Black. It goes with all the black and grey I wear!
What’s your go-to bag from your collection? Currently, I am using the PAK inside of my Curtin tote. I travelled a lot over the holidays to see family and the Curtin is large enough to hold my books, sweater, and other things I need with me while traveling. I like to keep my small essentials organized inside my PAK so I am not digging to find what I need.
Do you have any advice for other budding entrepreneurs/designers? Just go for it. Don’t get discouraged by how many people are already doing what you want to do. Once you start, your own personal influence will develop. Don’t deny the world (or yourself!) the great things you have to offer. Also, I recommend reading “Great By Choice” by Jim Collins.
Blair Ritchey in a Nutshell…
- Coffee or Tea? Coffee
- Salty or Sweet? Sweet
- Beach or Mountains? Mountains
- Beer or Wine? Neither – vodka!
- City or Country? Both
- Cats or Dogs? Dogs