Maggie Modena mini backpack and convertible belt bag/wristlet wallet are conceived of and made in Madison and Milwaukee.
After two years in New York City, Madison native Maggie Welsh returned here to launch her first line of designer handbags, Maggie Modena.
Welsh studied textile and apparel design at UW-Madison and accessory design at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology. After living in New York and designing handbags for Nicole Miller, Lucky Brand, Jessica Simpson and Franco Sarto, Welsh found herself wanting to relocate to an area where she could develop her own line. She and her husband are both from Madison, so a relocation back to the area felt right.
"I have a lot of Madison pride," Welsh says. "Madison has a lot to offer for a city of its size and a sense of community you can't quite find in New York."
Welsh, who DJs on the side with her husband, uses an "alter-ego"/stage name, "Modena." "The collection's name is my real name plus my alter ego name," says Welsh.
The line will be introduced with three functional styles: a classic backpack, a drawstring bag that converts from a mini backpack to a crossbody, and a convertible bag/wallet that can be worn on the waist, wrist, or with the other bags. Each style is available in prints that are designed by Welsh and reproduced in limited numbers.
"I chose colorful, loud prints for this line," says Welsh. "I wanted to appeal to different people with different moods."
Welsh is heavily involved in the making of the bags, from cutting the patterns to designing the prints and style of the bags. Not wanting to have her bags made in China, she researched local manufacturers and craftspeople who could produce her line with attention and care.
"It was very difficult to find the right company to sew my bags in Wisconsin, let alone in the U.S. in general," says Welsh. "The factory/sewing world is a bit underground right now, so it took a lot of digging."
The leather used for Maggie Modena comes from Thiele Tanning, a leather company in Milwaukee. Welsh knew she had found the right people to sew her bags, Johnson Sewing in Milwaukee, when she was met with a hug at their first meeting.
In 2013 Welsh was responsible for setting up the sewing room and for teaching classes at Madison's Sector67 makerspace. She now uses the laser cutters there for bag patterns and continues to use their sewing machines for smaller parts of the process.
The Maggie Modena line will be sold first at Madison's iona and online soon after. Welsh will launch her line at a trunk show on Feb. 14 from noon to 3 p.m. at iona, 807 E. Johnson St. To RSVP for the show, email email@example.com or call 608-467-9489.