Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Minimalist Leather Handbags with Rodeo Roots

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Minimalist Leather Handbags with Rodeo Roots

Article excerpt

MANDOLIN HANDBAGS

Designer * Haley Black

Family * Michael Black, married three years; and pet Waylynn, a lovable mutt

Home * Benton Park

Age * 29

What she sells * Leather clutches, wallets, handbags, personalized logo leather coasters, commuter bags available in black and cognac tan with subtle, minimalist equestrian details, including wallets ($50), clutches ($180), purses ($165) and commuter bags ($320).

Where to buy * Lusso, 165 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; Heirloom Room, 2116 Cherokee Street; or themandolinhandbag.com

Sound waves * Haley Black traveled a circuitous route to her current profession. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in speech and hearing science then went on to a master's degree from Washington University in deaf education. She taught for three years, but "education is tough. I loved the kids, but there are so many other pieces. It's a lot to handle." After that she accidentally stumbled into the job of leather goods designer.

Leather dreams * She imagined the perfect-sized clutch but couldn't find anything in stores to meet her expectations or style. "I was sick of clutches that didn't fit enough or either were so big that you could carry a portfolio," Black said. She also needed adequate room to fit her husband's keys and phone: "He always hands his stuff to me."

Garage experiment * Black grew up in a "rodeo family." Her dad works as an announcer and makes equestrian saddles and bridles. While she was back home at his shop in Bloomington, Ill., she decided to try her hand at making that perfect clutch she dreamed of. "I basically used scraps from my dad's leather bench, and he had this one cool piece of hardware from a garage sale with beautiful details," Black said. He gave her some pointers and once she finished she left happy, but with no illusions that she was suddenly a designer.

Consumer compliments * After making the clutch in 2013, Black carried it around as planned. What she didn't expect was the barrage of compliments and requests for duplicates. Suddenly, it didn't seem so far-fetched that making handbags could be her next career. She figured that if she could create a viable prototype from scrap leathers then she could do so much more with a little effort. …

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