Local Canberra designer Kristy McPhillips and her brand Sash & Belle are smashing it when it comes to handbags for the everyday busy girl boss.
Launched in 2014, Kristy had a dream of wanting to be her own #GirlBoss with a business of her own – and be a force to be reckoned with on the entrepreneurial scene.
From always searching for a bag that wasn’t quite there, she fell into handbag designing to create the ultimate nappy bag when she was pregnant with her first child. Instead of sticking with the trend of the ‘cutesy’ nappy bags for mums, Kristy designs bags that look like normal, trendy bags on the outside but have an extremely functional interior.
As an organised person, Kristy loves to have her bag organised and wanted the same for her clientele. She designs bags with function and purpose in mind.
Supporting locals, especially women in business is extremely important, and with bags as practical and timeless as Sash & Belle’s, it’s easy to support the Canberra fashion company.
The name Sash & Belle came about by incorporating Kristy’s favourite way of wearing a bag, like a sash, or cross body as some would call it, with her nickname, and thus Sash & Belle was born.
Kristy’s design process consists of coming up with an idea for a bag, generally from the inside out, of whatever style, colour, and design she wants it to be from the pockets, zippers, and leather (and she has a vegan range!)
She then has her fashion illustrator sketch and plan every element of the piece, before sending the detailed sketch to her manufacturer in China. Usually, there will be two samples per bag, just so everything is completely perfect and of an amazing quality.
To come up with new and innovative designs Kristy generally goes to her existing customer base and peruses through Facebook asking enthusiastic groups like Mums With Hustle and Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine if they had the chance to create and design their own bag what would they want it to be.
Kristy says some women don’t want their makeup to spill through their bag; they want a place for their tech cords, a spot for their glasses etc. Drawing on all these commonalities, comments, and recommendations, Kristy gets to designing bags for the modern, busy women of the world.
“There’s always a place inside for your keys, glasses, water bottle, laptop, and all your baby needs if you’re a mum,” Kristy said.
“However not all my bags do that but the majority do. I have everyday bags too. Someone may not want all those pockets or a bag that big, they may want a bucket bag for an organised mess, so I try and cater for all.”
Travelling to China four times already, with another trip planned this year, Kristy takes the manufacturing process seriously, as she wants all her products to be of a high standard.
“The first time [travelling to China] was so daunting. I was a tiny fish in a massive ocean. I thought what am I doing here? I attended The Canton Fair and there were 54,000 exhibits and I had to find a manufacturer who would produce a small amount of bags amongst them all! Luckily, I’ve found some beautiful manufactures over there,” Kristy said.
Bringing out two collections a year for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, Kristy usually garners inspiration for seasonal colours from European and American trends to keep it fresh, as here in down under we tend to receive the same trends later in the year. However, when she is coming up with original colour pallets for a collection, it’s always what her customers actually want.
“People love colour but they’re so afraid to buy a handbag in a colour. So this collection is quite muted but the next one I’ll be bringing out more colours, including pink!” she said.
Sash & Belle products are sold at The Gungahlin Collective in the Gungahlin Marketplace. The Gungahlin Collective is a fantastic initiative between the Marketplace and Kristy. Wanting to fill the shop with local products, over the four years Sash & Belle has been there Kristy seeks out wonderful Canberrans who make amazing products including jewellery, candles, clothing etc. and sells them at the boutique for commission. All the items in store are handmade and Australian designed.
Kristy also revealed what her ideal bag is and what her must-haves are in her every work bag.
“My ideal bag is one that can carry my laptop, drink bottle, glasses, and tech cords for the working week. I fill up my bag quite easily so I need it to be comfortable to carry as well. The weekends are a different story! It’s definitely a hands-free, cross body bag type of day,” she said.
The Gungahlin Collective, along with Sash & Belle is located in the Gungahlin Marketplace in the Big W Building near the indoor children’s playground.