Nature, beauty inspires handbag designer

So how exactly do the Highlands of Scotland or a Montana road trip inspire designs for purses? Just ask Beth Younger (BS biology ’02) who recently launched JulieBeth, a high-end handbag line inspired by her traveling adventures with best friend Julie Thayer.

“We look at things and say, ‘Oooh that’s a great color’ or ‘look at the texture of that rock or waterfall,’” explains Younger of their travel-inspiration process.

Released in fall 2007, the handbag collection includes everything from a small clutch to a weekend carry-all, blending different leathers, fabrics and materials for a unique look, feel, function and durability.

It was on a trip about three years ago that the two friends dreamed up a career where they could “get inspired, create ideas and come home and make them happen,” says Younger.

While in Yellowstone National Park, they were particularly struck by the charred trees and how imperfection was part of the area’s natural beauty.

“That particular moment is reflected in the distressed leather of our Aspen bag,” Younger describes. “There are these imperfections that come out in the leather.”

In early 2007, the two friends traveled to New York to see what it would take to create a handbag line. Younger, who had been doing marketing for a Kansas City livestock company, had gathered a deep knowledge about leathers, hides and tanning. She and Thayer began tinkering with the idea of mixing fabrics and high-quality leathers for beauty and durability.

“We were told, ‘No, you can’t do that because nobody does that.’ But we figured if we made them like everyone else, there was no point in us doing it.”

Both women were college athletes (Younger played for the DU women’s basketball team) and saw the need for bags that “could carry everything, didn’t have logos all over and that wouldn’t fall apart or rip at the seams.”

Using the best materials from Italy, the hides for their purses are tanned in South America and then sent to a New York manufacturer, which produces bags for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.

Bags run from $520–$1,200. “We do get a lot of sticker shock,” Younger admits.

“But the people that have bought a bag realize it’s an investment. They are heirloom quality and can be passed down from generation to generation.”

JulieBeth bags are available online and in eight stores, including a Cherry Creek accessories boutique called DS Additions, which is owned by DU alumnae Danielle Haun (BS psychology ’02, MA education ’06) and Samantha Holloway (MA forensic psychology ’07).

The two pairs of friends happened upon each other at a Dallas market where Holloway and Haun were looking for unique items for their store and where Younger and Thayer were looking for buyers. The DU alumnae didn’t know each other before the meeting but quickly discovered that they shared a number of friends.

“I’ve never really seen anything like their bags,” Holloway says. “The combination of fabrics and designs … they are gorgeous and rustic while still being very high quality.”

JulieBeth hopes to have a new collection of bags out early next summer that will blend new fabrics and leathers while still keeping some of the same purse shapes and designs.

Comments are closed.