It is no secret that the Knitty staff are big fans of Offhand Designs Bags. The vintage feel, the select and limited edition fabrics and the quality workmanship of a handmade bag all speak to the bag collector and maker in all of us.
Because I’m curious (nosy) I ask owner Larisa Flint Snydal a few questions about Offhand Designs. She happily answered my questions and even sent over a couple of pictures of herself working on bags.
Why and how did you get started? I worked for 10 years reviewing internationally funded projects in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, but all the while was making extravagant gowns and bags and learning everything I could about textiles and design. My boyfriend, now husband, was in a popular funk band and I had every type of occasion to doll myself up in those days. Starting my own business came a few years later, but didn’t surprise anyone in my family. Extravagant but functional design was my destiny!
Can you describe the process – from design to fabric to finished bag ? I am inspired by literally everything and everyone but take my time to let new ideas simmer because they always become richer with time. Functionality is a key component and one of the design process steps that I absolutely love. My sense of style is a little timeless and a little whimsical or ‘offhand’. I do not roll out tons of new styles but keep the line exciting by having so many new gorgeous and eclectic textiles every few months. We are indeed limited editions. These days, we never make more than 20 of any given style and color and usually it is more like 12 or 15! That is not even enough for 1 in every State or Province. From sketches to prototypes to final prototypes which are carried and tested to make sure all of the details I want are there. As I said in my original business plan and repeat it every day: would I die to own this? If yes, then move forward with it. If not so much… what needs to change before it is?
What is your favorite bag right now? The new Arya bag was in the works for more than 18 months and at least 5 versions before I landed on my feet with the current, amazing design. I carried this bag to the trade shows this year, packed with my laptop and every last other thing and I was so proud of how painless it was to carry all of that weight and how nicely the bag held its pretty silhouette. It was (almost) embarrassing how many complete strangers stopped me in the airport and on the street to compliment my bag and ask about it! What new bags do you have coming up? I am working on three new things: leather, Sage Luxury bags and Flint Snydal bags.
Leather bags: Dreaming big is something I have been known for my whole life and now we are hard at work setting up in studio production of some of the most luxe bags I have EVER seen in my life. Premium, eco-friendly and extremely small edition leather products which really do send shivers down my spine and astonish me. I wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘wait, I didn’t actually make that bag, did I?’ Leather is an inspiring material and my current design work feels so full of potential it could not be more exciting.
We started leather a few years ago but found it impossible to keep up with demand and just as hard to find experienced help. My staff and I all agreed that the intense period of 3 months during which we only worked on leather bags was the best of Offhand Designs history by far. Our current goal is to make and sell these leather creations on SageLuxury.com.
Sage Luxury bags: We are also about to launch a very different looking, but every bit as functional, bag line under the Sage Luxury label. All of the bags will feature leather handles and trims. Please look for these to launch in the next month to be ready for the holiday season.
Flint Snydal bags: I also have 2 styles for men which have been way too long in the making, but SO fun. A doctor bag in two sizes (considering Samson & Goliath as names for these) and a messenger bag with a closeable pocket for knitting. The esthetic is high quality urban cowboy, featuring rich hides with high quality hardware. If I am lucky, this bag line will show its face to the public for the holidays via SageLuxury.com as well.
My dear knitting friends and bag lovers, are you sitting down? Larisa has given us an Offhand Design bag to giveaway!
Regular contest rules: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Monday, September 30th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the signed book. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.
Jillian is the author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts.
She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing.
Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com