5 Questions with Handbag Designer Patricia Nash

After years of developing products for clients ranging from Disney and Warner Brothers to Banana Republic, Express, and American Eagle, Patricia Nash decided to go into business for herself. The East Tennessee-based designer launched her signature handbag collection in 2010, and since has gone on to be carried by ShopHQ and Macy’s. Inspired by Old World craftsmanship, the collection features hand-dying, hand-embossing, hand-tooling, and hand-cutting. And despite the fine craftsmanship, the line is reasonably priced, with most items ranging between $98 and $200.

The designer comes to town today as part of a series of personal appearances at Macy’s stores around the country, where she’ll showcase her fall collection and debut some new pieces for holiday, including some limited-edition metallic gold bags and some holiday prints.

We chatted with the designer before today’s appearance.

Q: I hear you’re from Minnesota. What do you remember from growing up here?

A: I was born in Detroit Lakes, and grew up in Houston. We moved away from Minnesota when I was 9, but we still visited for holidays, so I’m familiar with the snow.

Q: The hand-crafted movement is really going strong right now. Why do you think people are embracing things that are handmade?

A: I think we’re all starting to appreciate the quality, that someone took care in making something that’s not just factory produced. A beautifully made product is one of those things we all yearn for, instead of buying something that breaks the next week or something everybody else has. It’s also reminiscent of our childhood—our mother’s closet, our grandmother’s closet. I hear so many stories from people about them remembering their grandmother’s handbag. It makes us connect with our past. It’s that kind of feeling we all need right now, with all that’s going on in the world.

Q: What’s your take on trend? Do you design with trend in mind, or do you ignore it and go your own way?

A: Actually, a lot of the designs and collections I’ve been doing are on trend right now, but I don’t consciously cater to trends. I’ve been told I’m too early on the trends. For instance, my grandmother has been gone for 30 years, and she used to do a lot of rosemaling. She actually studied in in Norway. I always loved that when I was a little girl and my mother saved all her designs, so I’m incorporating that into my designs this spring. Then I noticed in Frozen that rosemaling designs are all over the movie, and Dolce & Gabbana did it in their spring 2013 collection. Some people call my handbags retro, some call it bohemian, it just fits that whole casual chic kind of feeling.

Q: How do your travels inspire your designs?

A: I started getting my inspiration from Italy, going into resale and antique shops. Sometimes it could be an old horse saddle that inspired me–that’s where I came up with the Barcelona bag—or a dress that I saw in a flea market in Paris that became a print. All my prints are original and they are inspired by garments I find that are 50 or 60 years old. Or I find a story that someone tells me sets off a light in my head. A shopkeeper will tell me about a bag, what it was used for and its history.

Q: What else inspires you?

It sounds so hokey, but when people share their stories with me. It’s really funny how one of my bags will trigger a real memory. Someone will say, ‘It was my first year of college and my mother gave me this bag,’ or ‘My husband and I went to Florence and he bought something like this for me’—they tell you these stories that are so intimate. I find more pleasure out of it than they do, to be able to trigger that emotion out of some people, instead of just a handbag. The brand’s all about stories, really.

The December 2nd event goes from 6-8 p.m. at Macy’s Mall of America, 4000 SW Court, Bloomington, 952-883-3333, mallofamerica.com. Promotions include a Patricia Nash handbag giveaway, and the first ten shoppers who make a purchase of $100 or more will receive a $20 Macy’s gift card. Shop the Patricia Nash collection at macys.com.