One of the last events during Boston Fashion Week was the Emerging Trends fashion show. The day before the show, I attended the press event at Cyclorama - Boston Center for the Arts so I could meet some of the designers who would be showcasing their pieces.
Thaddeus Du Bois’ handbags immediately intrigued me. His table was set up at the back wall of the room, yet his intricate metalwork stood out among the racks of clothes next to him. One bag, a saddlebag style with twisted tentacles emerging underneath it, hung from a metal stand as if it belonged in a gallery. I could tell right away that these handbags are intended for more than just their utilitarian purpose.
|Narcosis w/stand - $32,900|
“I view them as sculpture. I love the idea that they can be sculpture at home that you don’t put them away in a closet, then when you take them off their stand and carry them out...they change in context and content everywhere you go,” Du Bois said. Narcosis, the aforementioned saddlebag, is one of his couture pieces. Priced at $32,900, it is also the most expensive piece in his collection. “Narcosis is one of my couture pieces where there’s only one and there’s only ever going to be one,” he said.
|Miss Adventure w/stand - $4,200|
Another showstopper in his collection is his Emy Clutch. “It’s all about glitz and glamour,” said Du Bois. Made with mirror polished aluminum, white deer skin, and 23 Swarovsky crystals, it’s designed for a walk down the red carpet. “The paparazzi snapping all their photos with the flashes, with the mirror polished aluminum, it’s going to reflect all those flashes and I really think it’s going to look like a ball of light in your hand, which I think is so cool. But it’s also going to ruin some of those photographs because the flash is going to reflect,” he said. With such a reflective surface, it also doubles as a mirror for touching up makeup throughout the night. “So [there’s] no reason to leave the party, and it’s definitely going to attract some attention,” he said.
|Emy Clutch w/carrying trunk - $4,200|
“It’s never in another country and I really want to stick to that. As I grow my line I really want to keep it all US made and US sourced.”
My personal favorite of his collection is the Elson Bag, a rugged, versatile piece he made at the request of his art friend in Alaska. “She’s the type of girl [who] wears a flower dress and combat boots and she rides a motorcycle. She paints,” he said. So he created a bag that fit her lifestyle. It was big enough to fit her sketchbook, had a pocket for her pencils, an outside pocket for her cell phone, another pocket inside, and a flap closure. To be extra secure, he also added a zipper closure so nothing could fall out of the flap. As if these didn’t make the bag functional enough, he created straps that can transition from a shoulder strap, to cross-body, to backpack. “She loves it. It fits her personality so perfect,” he said.
|Elson Bag - $3,200|
With all of his thought into what a woman wants, it would seem as if Du Bois has been designing handbags his whole career. However, he happened upon them in an unexpected way. In 2005, he was working as a suit salesman at Nordstrom and would see women buying handbags across the aisle. He thought they were ridiculous for buying the same bags until one woman told him, “Look at them as sculptures. It’s about the hardware.” And everything clicked. “At that point there was a spark for real in my head and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, handbags are the coolest thing ever!’” he said.
|Romano Bag - $3,800|
For now, Du Bois makes his pieces himself, by hand. “So I’m in my studio with a torch and a welder and making it,” he said. He gets all of his materials within the US. “The leather is all sourced in the US. The hide comes from a tannery so it’s US cows that are tanned in Tennessee,” he said. As he expands his line and hires others to help, he intends to maintain this standard. “It’s never in another country and I really want to stick to that. As I grow my line I really want to keep it all US made and US sourced,” he said.
|Ella - a purse he made for his wife to take to church|
However, he doesn’t want to grow too fast. He would rather keep production levels low to keep the couture, luxury, and personal elements of his brand. “If I can keep the production 300 or even well under, then I think that’s going to hit the market that I want to keep it exclusive,” he said. He values connecting with each customer over becoming a household brand and enjoys talking to the people who will be owning his bags. “I know they’re going to pass it on to their children or someone else is going to get it and it’s going to have the story that goes behind it,” he said.
To view and purchase Du Bois’ handbags and sculptures, visit thaddeusdubois.com.