After a Fashion
So many purse designers, so little talent errrrrr, time, time! We mean time!
PURSES PER SE I'm wading into dangerous territory here, I know, but let's all gather around and hold hands and work through this together. We have to talk about purses. I have carefully avoided addressing the explosion of Purse Designers in Austin, but you have to agree that we have them coming out of our ears. I've written about certain purse designers before because their work was extremely unusual, but I am inundated with press releases and e-mails from purse designers. It seems that anyone who can sew two vintage linen napkins together and throw a macramé strap on it can call himself a purse designer. But that is not to imply that there aren't fabulous purse designers out there there definitely are artists and designers creating beautifully crafted pieces with fine fittings and excellent quality. But the bulk are hobbyists with a sewing machine and glue gun, and a vision of something they're trying to express. Purse-designing is so prevalent that it was even derisively called "the fallback career of the 21st century" on Sex and the City, and Austin seems to attract more than its share of designers and wannabes. The thing is, we have an amazingly attractive and nurturing design atmosphere here. We're receiving national attention for our style scene and have become a magnet for dispossessed New Yorkers and Californians, and that alone increases the need for more new and interesting merchandise. Coupled with the trend for trying to find hobbies that will become financially profitable, purse and jewelry designing seems to be the dream of literally thousands of people in Central Texas. (I shuddered as one purse designer wrote me raving about how she just moved here from New York and has already been interviewed on national television for being a Texas designer ... faaabulous.) It seems to be a case where people look at an item a purse, for example and say, "I could make that." And then they go out and do it. Then they make another one. The designer's friends like them, and a dream is born. The problem is that same dream seems to be being born in a thousand homes and sewing rooms at the same time. The novice purse designer (like the novice jewelry designer) has limited resources available to him or her, and a certain sameness develops among the collections out there. Of course, the designs are "original" because they are made with loving care by the designer, but because of the limitations of what can be made on a sewing machine, they are all variations on a theme. To a retail buyer or other professional observer, there is generally a lack of signature style to these homemade creations that would identify the work as belonging to a particular designer. This is not a crime, but it is a hindrance in entering the retail market. In many cases, the designer is better off keeping it as a hobby. But for the very few that will break through, it is a wide-open market with great rewards that include leaving the average workday world behind and being your own boss.
A BIG DEAL Nothing about it would have attracted me not the really cheesy TV commercials in which the proprietor throws money at the camera, or the location (a pit stop on Airport Boulevard), or the name of the Web site (www.furnituredude.com). But once my sister dragged me in there, I was hooked. Discount Furniture (5312 Airport, 371-3004) offers some of the best service and lowest prices on Mexican rustic furniture. We were greeted by owner Alex Navarro as we walked in, and I immediately laid eyes on a gorgeous 7-foot armoire with a barrel-vaulted top and dark finish. Its sale price was still more than I had in mind, but with a little adjustment by Alex, I could hardly refuse. The massive piece was delivered a day later and has completely changed the look of my living room. I can now hide tons of clutter completely out of sight and have a gorgeous new focal point in my decorating scheme. Frankly, I don't care what a place looks like when they give excellent service and good value, I'm a fan. Thanks, Alex!
A BIRD IN HAND The annual fun of Big Red Sun's (1102 E. Cesar Chavez) Hello Birdie! event begins today, Thursday, May 13, 7-10pm, when you are invited to enjoy wonderful chef creations and music in a garden setting as well as an auction of fabulous celebrity- and artist-built birdhouses. Call 480-0688 for ticket info. The Hello Birdie Family Festival is Saturday, May 15, 1-7pm with a birdhouse contest, feathered-hat making, face painters, pony rides, birdhouse building, butterfly forum, storytellers, amazing live music, and more.