Hillsdale resident Carol Miller started her own business designing and making handbags two-and-a-half years ago after leaving a career in New York City's clothing industry.
For Miller, the move from big business to one-on-one sales has been a pleasant move from the sometimes-cutthroat garment industry.
"It's a lot of fun," Miller said. "It's much more creative and personal."
Miller's bags are crafted from leather, cloth — often with a Native American motif — and metal components, most of which she finds in the U.S., though she also finds some leather in Italy or Columbia. Once she finds the components, she designs around a pattern, though comments from customers often influence changes to the designs, such as a longer handle or the addition of a zipper.
"Often I don't remember what I had for breakfast, but that stuff I remember," Miller said.
So far, Miller has grown the business from selling to a few friends to shows and, more recently, placement in some stores. Still, she says she prefers the one-on-one interactions.
"It's a lot of fun to meet all these people from different places and hear their reaction," Miller said.
Miller also recently added a philanthropic element to the business. After she started making straw bags, she found a similar bag while traveling in Spain. It turned out that the bags in Spain were being sold to benefit La Maison D'Aina, a charity which helps families in Madagascar. To date, the group has used donated funds to build three schools and a medical complex, according to Miller.
Now, Miller is representing the charity in the U.S., helping to raise more money for them with money from the sales of her straw bags. The bags were also featured in several fashion shows at the Cannes Film Festival and another show at the Miama Swim Fashion Week.
Miller will be exhibiting some of her work at the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival
in Somerset from October 26 to 28. To see more of her bags, check out her website.