Meet The Designer! Laura Collins: Creator of Pansy Maiden

Being a panelist for the SFFAMA‘s Fashion Mash-up, has given me the opportunity to meet numerous designers and talent. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Laura Collins, creator of Pansy Maiden, a handmade vegan bag company based out of Boston.

I think Laura and I are somehow connected. For those of you who know me well, know that I am very close with both of my Grandmothers. When I found out that Laura named her company, Pansy Maiden, after her grandmother, Pansy Pauline Maiden, I was especially touched. When I found out that her grandmother “could play a mean harmonica”, I got out mine and attempted to play a tune.

Laura names all of her bags after inspirational songs written by women who’s titles and lyrics push boundaries like her Grandmother did. She designs bags for women and girls with every imaginable style including messenger bags, clutches, shoulder bags, totes, and even diaper bags. The materials that she uses is organic, reclaimed or vintage and her glue is an animal derivative free brand.

In addition to being an absolute delight to speak with, she has been covered by numerous companies raving about her business philosophy, sustainability and functional designs. She s a writer for her blog, All Things Connect: One girl sewing connections one bag at a time and was recently nominated as October’s Exceptional Herbivore by Vegan Mainstream. I invite you to meet the class act behind Pansy Maiden.


What inspired your line? Have you always designed cruelty-free pieces/products?

I make bags that I would carry. When I was shopping for a new bag a few years ago, I found that so many of the styles featured trendy buckles, do-dads, studs, gaudy snaps, chains, and general hardware “craziness.” That’s just not my style. I like a more minimal, utilitarian look to carry from season to season. I figured there had to be more women like me who were seeking a more classic, everyday look. So, I went to designing!

When I first started Pansy Maiden, I wasn’t a vegan but I had been a vegetarian for almost 9 years. I was definitely not going to use leather or wool to build my bags but I wasn’t necessarily thinking about what sort of fabric glue or fabric detergent I was using. After transitioning from vegetarian to vegan this past year, I went the distance and began using a vegan fabric glue as well as a plant-based fabric detergent. As of October of 2009, just seven months after debuting, Pansy Maiden is 100% vegan!

Why did you choose to participate in the SF Vegan Fashion Show? What message are you hoping to share?

Pansy Maiden is still a very young company so I thought this fashion show would be a prime opportunity to introduce my line of eco-friendly, vegan bags to a wider audience; a coming out party of sorts ;) And to share the stage with amazing vegan brands like Reco Jeans, Lion’s Share Industries, Vaute Couture, Melie Bianco, Cri de Coeur, and Mission Savvy…what a grand opportunity!

One of the goals of this fashion event was to prove that cruelty-free fashion can be more than just hemp, polyester, and plastic. I believe that this show definitely proved that point, and hopefully, audience members will take that knowledge and run with it. There is no longer a reason for vegans to “settle” for blase fashion that just “happens to be” vegan. There are many up-and-coming vegan designers out there making it easy to be both fashionable AND vegan!

What is your take on Vegan Fashion today and the future of eco-friendly designs?

As a new vegan, the most surprising thing to me is how frustrating and time consuming it can be to find cruelty-free clothing and accessories. I might find a dress I like but then I read that it has a silk lining or, I might find a coat but it’s so cheap and poorly manufactured that it falls apart before the winter is over. So frustrating! It’s really exciting that there are a number of up-and-coming, high-quality, strictly-vegan labels making the scene. And with so many amazing vegan fashion blogs popping up, these cruelty-free labels are getting easier and easier to find.

I am always happy when I hear about or see a news piece featuring a green, vegan company, especially in a market outside of the vegan community, because it’s a big win for us all. The more publicity we can drum up, the more notice the fashion industry has to give us. If we can show that green, vegan businesses are viable and can garner the attention of a wide audience, then more and more mainstream industry people will have no choice but to examine their own methods and employ kinder, more socially responsible methods.


Are you a Vegan?

Yes I am! I have been a vegan for one year now and a vegetarian nine years before that.

What other green practices do you participate in everyday?

I consider myself to be on a “path to sustainability.” It can be a real struggle (thinking in terms of both money and convenience) to live life in the manner I know I should, a manner that’s best for our environment. I try to keep getting better and better every day. Here are a few things I have been really consistent with:

Saving all my fabric scraps and donating them to local arts programs

Using my bike, public trans, or hybrid Zipcars as a means to get around Boston

Recycling whatever I can whenever I can—If I’m out and about, I’ve been know to carry a glass bottle around for hours until I find a recycle bin.

Using eco-friendly (sometimes homemade) cleaning supplies

Buying organic whenever I can

Shop local whenever I can

What other organizations are you a part of or support?

I am a proud member of Boston Handmade, a gathering of Boston-area colleagues who support one another in the pursuit of creativity made by hand.

I have supported and will continue to support organizations that aim to make the world a better, kinder place. Here are a few examples:

www.kiva.org

www.farmsactuary.com

http://communityfarms.org

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