Stage One: Finding Inspiration
I sit down at a clean wooden table, in a comfortable chair in a lovely bright office. I sip a latte from my #girlboss coffee cup as inspirations start flowing. Usually, as soon as I pick up a pencil and put it to my adorable, little sketch pad, I get hit with brilliance.
People ask me what inspires the designs at Urban Southern, and sometimes I’m not sure how to answer that. Do they expect me to say something brilliant? Some days design feels brilliant, and other days it feels murky and uncertain.
Design often happens in the little, unseen moments for me. Those small moments of feeling deeply, of savoring a moment, of touching inspiration as it whisks by in a flurry of meaning.
I see a gorgeous snapshot on IG and feel the beauty that the texture of leather would bring to that moment.
Pinterest sucks me in with pins like Brown Butter Banana Bread with Creamy Apple and Rum Pecan Sauce, and soon I’m scrolling through fashion pins, looking for style inspiration. Then I see a happy smile on a dark haired girl wearing ripped jeans and a comfortably soft white top and carrying a slouchy leather bag. “I could make something that looks simple and yet fashion forward that is also practical,” I think. “And add a pocket here, and a touch of brass hardware would really look great.”
Creating designs also happens in the more mundane, the daily practicalities of life that we all walk in. I’m fumbling my way through the checkout process at the grocery store, and I think, “Wouldn’t a small wallet, with a crossbody straps that don’t need constant hand-holding, work well for this shopping trip when I just need to pick up pumpkins and yogurt and milk?”
The inspiration to take fresh, whole foods and turn them into deliciously tasty and luxurious dishes is swirling in my brain, and I think, “Wouldn’t an oversize tote, with stylishly formed handles, be just perfect for ambling through tables of produce and buckets of flowers at a farmer’s market?”
Stage Two: Ideate a Working Prototype
The inspiration settles, and I follow it for a few days. Sometimes it’s immediately detailed, and sometimes it takes weeks, or months until it forms into a coherent image.
When Ruby and I stand at the well-marked wooden work table in the leather shop, and I show her my sketch she immediately starts looking at all the ways possible to make full-grain leather look like my vision. Sometimes it’s not possible, and I have to tweak the inspiration, which takes more inspiration. Sometimes we decide it’s possible to add a pocket. Or she tells me she found a better way to put the big brass ring on the bag. She cuts out a few pieces, measures again and again, and asks me how wide it’s supposed to be.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Just wide enough?”
“But do you want the strap ½ inch or ¾ inch?” Ruby asks.
“Design isn’t supposed to be hard! Let’s try it with ¾ inch straps first.”
Ruby measures again, cuts again, and stitches away. We look at the finished product and search for imperfections. Should it be bigger? Smaller? More simple? Would that ring make it easier to carry? She continually finds better solutions, more practical applications for the details I want to add. Her expertise and experienced ideas influence and shape the final product as much as my original inspiration.
Stage Three: a Leather Bag That Simply Fits Everyday Life
Quality inspires me.. The elegance of simplicity is an art — simple luxuries such as sinking into my cotton sheets and pulling the smooth linen duvet up under my chin at night. I love walking into my front door and feeling the rough texture of a jute rug under my feet. I can’t wait to serve myself yogurt and berries for breakfast in my pottery bowl with the whimsical little spout. I find joy in using a real wooden spoon to stir a thick, chunky chili with the spicy smelling steam curling up into my face. I relax on the couch and reach for my cozy woven throw, and I feel the peace of a life curated simply with real joy and love.
I love a life that feels authentic, that is real. I search for quality and simplicity in my very real life every day. As I stop by the coffee shop and pull a few dollar bills out of my real leather wallet, I savor the ease of its quiet motion. As I walk through the airport on my way to somewhere new, I enjoy the simplicity of my oversize leather tote that can handle books, a scarf, and some snacks as it also styles my outfit. I sit on my front porch rocker and breathe in the early evening air, the warmth of leftover sunshine, the whiff of freshly cut grass, and I luxuriate for a moment in the serene quality of nature. I savor my chai tea topped with rich foam and a hint of spice as my children cuddle up to me with their bead, tangled hair and their sleepy looks — I feel the quiet peace of a morning moment within the chaos of school schedules and to do lists.
I look for the full moments, laden with small pleasures. I feel like raindrops on roses and bright copper kettles all together with a flickering candle and slow weekends is a life I want to live everyday.
I want someone to savor the texture of their real leather bag fully. I want customers to find joy in living a full life with their real leather bag. I want to think of someone loving the motion of sliding a lip gloss and a compact into their Half Moon clutch as they excitedly prepare for an evening out with a date. I want to think of a mom carrying her baby to the car and enjoying the stylish ease of her real leather Regina Tote swinging from her shoulder. I love imagining a lively girl who likes to wear colorful florals putting a carefully wrapped book into her Urban Tote and gifting the book to a friend over coffee and chats. I picture an adventurous woman excitedly packing her Market Tote with walking shoes, books, and a camera as she prepares to fly to Europe for the trip of a lifetime.
This is what inspires the designs behind Urban Southern.