Krissy Anderson became a designer accidentally.
When she couldnt find the kind of simple bag she wanted to carry, she decided to make her own hand-stitched in 2010 from an oil tanned leather that would scratch up with use and develop a beautiful patina over time.
I ended up hand-stitching by default, said Anderson, laughing over her first try at sewing leather on her home sewing machine. I learned pretty quickly that it wouldnt work, so I bought a really good book on hand-stitching and started practicing on some leather scraps.
Anderson came up with a very minimalist design: just two side seams, a simple pocket and a handle that folded over and was stitched in half. That first bag took her about 3 1/2 hours to hand cut and stitch, but she has now gotten the laborious process down to about 2 hours.
I started thinking I was on to something, said Anderson, who has slowly grown Mill & Bird named after her two daughters, Millie and Kat Bird from an Etsy shop and a website started in 2011 to a brand carried in boutiques such as Durhams Vert & Vogue. To keep up with demand, Anderson recently employed a local manufacturer to help construct two of the bag styles. Her current collection retails in the $380-$480 range.
The success of Mill & Bird has been a bit of a surprise for the former health administrator, who works on the bags from a spare room in her Durham home.
I was never, ever one of those people who ever thought they would go to design school or do anything like that, she said. But I have found that I really like to think of bags that I would like to carry, and I have had a nice response to the bags I have made. So the whole process has ended up being really fun for me.
It is the leather that inspires the self-taught Andersons designs. She likes for her bags to develop a patina over time that shows the scars and marks from the animal that it once was.
Depending on what leather or what color I really fall in love with, I think of a bag around that.