By Mary Pavlu — Features Editor
Perhaps you’ve already seen vibrant, quilted bags on the arms of students and professors. What you may not know is that the designer behind these trendy handbags happens to be junior fashion merchandising major Lindsay Reilly. She always knew her career would involve fashion, but she could never have predicted she would have her own business by age 15. She started sewing at 8-years-old, and at 14, was the first “assistant” to be hired by her sewing teacher. From there, she became involved with small projects, like making curtains, cookie bags, and aprons for a local bakery in her hometown of Quincy, Mass. Soon, she developed the idea of making hand-bags, and a friend’s mother asked if she would like to sell them in her salon.
“From there, they took off,” said Reilly.
Her line of Lindsay Tia handbags were purchased every week at the salon and Reilly has been selling them to family, friends, and strangers ever since. Just last month, her line was featured in Lasell’s Birthday Wishes Foundation Fashion Show. She was also contacted by Whole Foods to sell her line of handbags in Newton, but found it would be too time consuming. Instead, she is focusing on creating her new website, a launch party, and a recent order of 40 bags.
Lindsay Tia handbags are currently made in three styles but her inspiration comes from an unlikely place. Rather than taking notes from current fashion trends she studies on a daily basis, the styles are inspired by the important people in her life who have helped her business grow.
One style is called the “Canavan Carry All,” named after Sue Canavan, one of Reilly’s strongest supporters. Canavan let her sell her bags in her salon for nine years without taking a penny of the profits.
The second is a briefcase bag called “Sewphisticated.” The bag was inspired by the man who runs a fabric store of the same name in her hometown. Reilly has always purchased her fabrics from this store and the owner has made sure she has procured all of the materials she needed, even when it wasn’t in her budget.
The third style is titled “Miss Karen,” after her sewing teacher and mentor, who Reilly said taught her everything she knows.
Having her own handbag line isn’t easy, according to Reilly. “It takes a lot of money to put into a business. I never pay myself. I probably take $20 from every bag I make each month,” she said. “Otherwise I don’t touch it. I need to save as much as I can for the website and other promotions.”
She also took a hiatus from the business while studying abroad in London during the fall of 2011. Once she came back, Anne Valelly, Assistant Professor of Fashion, asked if her handbags could be featured in the fashion show, she remembered how much she loved having her own business.
“I realized you only have one opportunity to do what you love. Even when I felt like I didn’t have the time or the money, I knew I had to find a way. You can’t let anything hold you back,” Reilly said.
After graduation, Reilly would like to see her bags, which currently range in price from $40-50, sold in boutiques, as well as on her website. Eventually she would like to have her own store.