“I would like to see more panache,” says D.C.-area native Sigrid Anne Eilertson of her hometown’s fashion scene. “I see it changing in positive directions. It’s not as conservative as it used to be.” Eilertson, a handbag designer, hopes to shake things up a little bit. “People are getting bolder and tearing away from the traditional lines of style,” she continues. “I’d like to see more color and for women to really accessorize more.”
Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Eilertson majored in art and psychology at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina. She began making bags as a financially strapped student, creating patchwork bags for friends and family as gifts. After earning a master’s in art therapy from Marylhurst College in Portland, Ore., she returned to the Washington area to work as a therapist.
Last summer, from her studio in Takoma Park, she launched SigridAnne. She sold her first bags to Shake Your Booty, a popular shoe boutique with locations in Adams Morgan and Georgetown, and since then has sold them mostly through word of mouth. “People will hear about me from a cute bag that their friend is wearing and e-mail me,” she explains. “I usually will send them photos of my newest line, and then we take it from there.”
At a recent showing of her designs, held in the apartment of her boyfriend and business partner, Rick Brewer, Eilertson offered her collection of bags for the spring and summer. Grouped according to shape and fabric, the bags were lined up along the walls of the apartment/gallery, with framed, brightly colored prints of handbagscreated by the designer herselfin between.
The design that seemed to get the most attention (in part because of its placement near the makeshift bar) was “Hawaii 5-0,” a square bag with a bamboo C-shaped handle, appliquéd flowers, and green plastic strips resembling a hula skirt, through which nearly all of the attendees felt inclined to comb their fingers.
Along the mantel was an assortment of elongated, trapezoid-shaped bags; one can already visualize “Sunny Day Picnic,” a cute bag of red-and-white gingham, being sported this summer by the throngs at the beach. There were other standouts, including a black-and-white-striped tote with a red interior and a small, CD-sized bag made of white silk and with a huge red poppy painted in its center.
Eilertson uses a variety fabrics to create her bags (which she describes as a combination of “classic elements with a twist of contemporary funkiness”), but she has an affinity for vintage materials. “The Edith,” a ’50s-style shoulder bag, is made from a vintage muumuu. “I love anything retro,” she says. “I love mixing the classic with the outlandish.”
Eilertson incorporates the elements of different fashion eras into her work, looking to designers and style icons for inspiration. “I love the classic style of Givenchy during the Audrey Hepburn years. These days, I fancy Versace’s bold flamboyance. I also loved the punk-inspired creations of Vivienne Westwood,” she says. As a designer, she identifies with Betsey Johnson’s “affordability and bittersweet, whimsical tastes,” Vera Wang’s “elegance and sophistication,” and Lulu Guinness’ use of “unconventional materials to create a true piece of art.”
Eilertson hopes to continue to grow her customer base and to increase brand recognition for SigridAnne. “I always had known that I would be an artist of some sort,” she says. “I see artistry and beauty in most things.” Maori Karmael Holmes