Newcastle designer creates hand-crafted handbag heaven

PUBLISHED: 08:33 19 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013

Newcastle designer creates hand-crafted handbag heaven

Newcastle designer creates hand-crafted handbag heaven

What do most women go wild for? Why, handcrafted, heavenly handbags of course

I am leaving a few weeks before Christmas free this year, specifically for my male customers, says handbag designer and creator Karina Hesketh with a smile.
I always get a lot of requests for one-off bags for presents from doting husbands and boyfriends, usually a few days before Christmas, so this year I have been working on stock early to free some time up to handle requests for special Christmas presents.
But in the three years shes been creating her beautiful bespoke handbags shes hasnt let anyone down yet.
Karina works from her home in Heaton in Newcastle and handcrafts timeless bags largely in leather and suede, with leather interiors and cool and classic designs.
But this is just the latest chapter in a very interesting story.
Her company - Karinas Bags - is three years old and during that time Karina has made more than 1,100 bags for customers from the USA to France, from Hong Kong to Norway. She has a very faithful following - overseas and in the UK - who have collections of her gorgeous creations.
Karina has tailoring in her blood - her mother was a tailoress - and she herself has had a career which has seen her move from the boutiques of London in the 1960s to having her own clothing business in Newcastle.
I left home when I was 16, attracted to the vibrant London fashion scene, said Karina. I loved designing and making clothes, so I naively thought I would see if there were any opportunities for me. Fortunately there were and I began to design for a few independent companies in Kensington high street.
It was a great time and it taught me a lot of things.

Karina went on to have her own successful business designing and making leather and suede clothes and selling them to upmarket boutiques throughout the UK, as well as being represented in Fenwicks French Salon.
We sold in a lot of independent shops then, said Karina. Most have gone now, which is a real shame.
Illness, divorce and a new baby enforced Karina to give her business up to concentrate on looking after her family. But then four years ago a friend asked Karina if she could make her a bag for a wedding.
Thats where Karinas Bags started really. I went to a few local markets to see how they would go, and they were a great success. Then I set up Karinas Bags as an on-line business in 2007.
It was a big learning curve - Karina had never used a computer, sent an email, but with help and encouragement from technically minded friends her website was created and now reaches over 45 countries a month! Soon orders come flooding in from all over
the world.
The stylish designs are unique and
straight out of Karinas head, using different shapes - such as that of old fashioned doctors bags - as inspiration. Her customers have described them as tomorrows heirlooms.
And she doesnt like the term handmade, preferring handcrafted.
In this country, handmade still has a feel of it being "amateur" when it comes to fashion, Karina said. Whereas handcrafted has a better response.
As well as using leather and suede, Karina also uses materials such as
vintage silk handkerchiefs or scarves as panels, some of which are valuable in their own right, and vintage frames and fasteners. All have a unique, sometimes antique feel.
Karina is amazed at the mark-up of some handbag companies. I sometimes see a bag marked at more than 1,000 and think "I could do that for 140!" .
Although creating bags takes up most of her time, she also gives sewing lessons and makes her own clothes and makes clothes to commission. Shes keen on 1940s styles, and watching old Hollywood movies influence her styles.
Karina has a real feel for design - evidence by world-wide repeat orders and commissions - but has no desire to expand her home-based business.
I love making my creations at home and pleasing people with what I do. Thats all I need.

Karinas creations are priced from about 40 for a purse to 200 for a handbag.

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