#BadassCreatives: Sandy Philpott of Uptown Redesigns
I was recently introduced to local handbag designer Sandy Philpott of Uptown Redesigns. She recently moved to New Orleans from Annapolis, Maryland. She creates one of a kind purses, totes and handbags from out-of-style leather coats and other materials, including a new line of made-to-order “Military Tent Totes” utilizing the canvas from US Army tents. I chatted with her to find out more about her work and what inspires her.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My background, training, and professional experience are in Education, but my heart has always been in the world of design. I made a purposeful career switch a few years ago out of a corporate position specifically so I could use the other side of my brain and my heart. I always loved to sew and love the challenge of figuring out how things are made. I also have a strong affinity for textiles (vintage and new), and have an endless stream of ideas of how to use and reuse them.
My husband and I recently moved to New Orleans from Annapolis, Maryland. We fell in love with New Orleans years ago, and after many repeated visits here we decided to relocate for good. We couldn’t be happier!
My design style has been described as practical, elegant, and streamlined. I like to utilize high-quality, durable materials, and avoid gimmicky details. I create things that I would actually use, and that will stand up to the test of time.
How did you get started making things?
Growing up, I used to always watch my mother sew. I then took the traditional home economics courses that everybody else does in middle school, and I just really liked it! I sought out a more advanced tailoring course in high school, and started to challenge myself with more tricky designs like a tailored blazer and 5 pocket jeans. From there I continued to sew things out of necessity: drapery, pillows, quilts – you name it!
I love to figure out how to make things, and get way more satisfaction in crafting them myself than in buying them from a store. I am often unhappy with products I see in stores (both in quality and in design), so I like to take matters into my own hands to make sure I end up with exactly what I want.
What inspires your work?
I’m currently inspired by the actual leather coats I work with. I love all the details of the original coats, and am always on the hunt for beautifully worn-in leathers and unusual colors or features. I am also inspired by quality design and old-school craftsmanship – especially what I see in vintage clothing. It’s true, “They don’t make them like they used to,” and I miss that old-fashioned attention to detail found in vintage handmade things. And I think it goes without saying that New Orleans itself is a very inspiring place! I draw upon things I see, hear, smell and taste here every day.
Outside of your creative business, what are your other hobbies and interests?
I’ve always been a runner, and now I love running though Audubon Park. I also like to garden, to travel, and I especially love food and wine!
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve made?
Each piece is so unique, because they are all individual designs. I often fall in love with them, but am also happy to see them get paired up with the right new owners too.
I really enjoy making custom bags for clients that bring me their own coats. For instance, I made a bag out of a woman’s husband’s old leather jacket. He passed away many years ago, but she still held on to many of his things, including his favorite leather coat. It was not the kind of thing she was planning on wearing, but she could not part with it so she asked me to redesign it into a bag. Now she can carry the bag and a piece of him close to her every day (see above)!
But, yes, there is one bag that I just cannot let go. I found a great old lilac-colored vintage leather swing coat in an eclectic vintage shop in Baltimore. It was like nothing I had ever seen before and I transformed it into a similar A-line swing shape bag while retaining its original vintage charm. The color is incredible; I have yet to see such a unique coat! It called out to me and the bag is still in my possession today. I don’t think I can ever sell it!
Where do you see your company in 2 years?
I’ve been in operation since 2009, but I am just now getting started in New Orleans. I plan to spend my immediate days getting involved in the local market here (markets, festivals, shops, clients, custom work, trunk shows), and making New Orleans an integral part of my product and designs. Ultimately, I envision having a working studio space with perhaps a seamstress or two that could also host a small walk-in boutique area for clients to visit, shop for bags, and also drop off their custom orders. I also plan to expand my online presence and to make sure that every bag I ship reflects my love for New Orleans in it, including a “Handmade in New Orleans” label!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
“Pick one thing, and do it well.” I have a million ideas and could probably go in lots of different directions or even produce more things than just leather bags, but I think it is important to focus on one thing and do it really well. I think people should be able to clearly explain their business, purpose, or mission in a just few short words or phrases.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in pursuing their creative dreams?
Remember that it is a business too. Turning your creative dream into a reality has its definite super-high points and creative energy surges, but the whole thing is still a business operation and it is important to stay focused and manage all parts of it. It is also important to have a plan and to stick with it. It is so easy to get sidetracked!
Thanks so much to Sandy for sharing her experiences! She keeps a constantly rotating boutique collection for sale on her website and in her Etsy store, plus she announces new design releases regularly via her Facebook page.