seaecho purses and clutches and trending, like, so hard in Portland right now. You can’t go to a fashion event without making a mental tally of how many you’ve seen that day. What is seaecho you ask? Well, it’s this fresh brand of bags that have Pendleton wool exteriors and come in an array sizes and prints. I had a chance to sit down with the designer Sarah Vale Rapp-Nickel, recently and ask her a few questions about her craft. Here’s what she had to say.
Looking back, did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
No, I always knew I wanted to be an artist or have a profession that let me create all day long.
Who taught you how to sew?
My mom taught me how to sew. She always had some wild craft or project for us to do during the weekends. My childhood was full of craft books from the school library, cookie and treat making, and sewing little things first from scraps of paper, a hole puncher and yarn. Then graduating to hand sewing with actual needle and thread and finally getting to use the sewing machine only after school or on the weekends when my mom was home. She also sewed for me a lot. She would make matching tops and bottoms, Halloween costumes, and dresses for the school dance. I always got to pick the fabric and pattern and help out until bed time. There are so many nights of my childhood I remember sitting on the floor with my mom and our cat Tinkerbell, laying out fabric and pattern pieces and waiting in anticipation for the next step.
You went to Ai right? What did you go to school for?
I did! I graduated in 2009 and then ran away to New York and British Columbia, Canada. I graduated from Ai with a BFA in Apparel Design and really fell in love with the whole process outside of the actual construction of a garment and got really involved with styling, merchandising and branding. Students who are attending Ai now should feel pretty lucky to have programs like Fashion Marketing and having opportunities like Student Stylists. I really feel like that was born from the need to explore the other side of fashion, the part that promotes it, because without one the other can’t survive.
Your purses are swoon worthy. All the fashionistas in P-town are sporting them, I feel like you’ve really hit gold here. When did this plan for awesome clutches in Pendleton wool prints come to you? I mean, is that even what you would call them?
Thanks! It was really by accident. Over Christmas I received some beautiful Pendleton fabric from my darling husband and was helping a friend who make these adorable little leather bags and was inspired to to make something for myself. So I figured I would make something big enough to hold my moleskin, laptop, pencil case, sunnies, wallet, random bits and bobs and all the other junk I tend to carry around during the day (think Dennis the Menace cleaning out his pants pockets) and then once all that stuff was removed would mimic a sleek little clutch to take the necessities at night (seriously just chapstick, phone and wallet and sometimes an odd toy or trinket from the days adventures). Then I fashioned up myself a little make-up bag and pencil pouch to match. I was working at Buffalo Exchange at the time and people on Hawthorne and in the store kept asking me where I got it. After that I started making them for friends, then friends of friends, and then it blossomed into this amazing adventure.
What do you count on for inspiration?
Portland is so full of visual treasure and amazing people working really hard to make things they love it’s hard not to feel inspired here. I’m constantly collecting little scraps of colorfully ribbon, pretty paper bits and random objects throughout town. I’m fully inspired by kitsch and found objects. I love thrifting and going to junk shops and finding old things that were made to last.
Do you want to parlay your handbags into a full blown clothing line one day, or are bags, and clutches your passion?
I don’t know what I want! Ha! I never imagined myself making accessories. I used to design clothes but the human form can vary so much and the process of making clutches and bags have quicker results and that has been quite fun! I wouldn’t say bags and clutches are my passion but I love the idea of making a vessel to carry whatever the day hands you and to be apart of peoples lives in that way. I love that I can make something so minimal and simple with the big, bold, beautiful pattern. I’m also playing around with other natural fabrics and hope to incorporate them with the next line but it think it important to keep the same aesthetic, attention to detail, and to provide something with dual functionality.
Lastly, your Canadian right, will you get deported if you answer that honestly?
HA! No, well, not really. I’m an American, who married a German living in Canada. So we’re both are Permanent Residence of Canada. Basically all the perks without the right to vote, but now we’re back in the states and love being in Portland.
Yay!! We love you being in Portland too!!!!