Emerging Design

Emerging Design: Accidental designer inspired by leather

jleonard@newsobserver.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Krissy Anderson became a designer accidentally.

When she couldn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 Durham’s 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 Anderson’s 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.”

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