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    Categories: Entertainment

Designer purses straight from Morinville

CREATIVE GENIUS – Morinville's Cyndee Rasmussen designs all of her own purses

It may be one of the smallest booths at St. Albert Farmers’ Market, but Lovin Each Stitch receives a non-stop stream of traffic.

In fact, last Saturday as the rain pelted down, half a dozen women just kept examining the original, hand-made purses and scarves.

Perhaps the most eye-catching attraction is a one-shouldered, Katniss Everdeen inspired cowl-scarf-sweater that the wearer dons almost like a warrior shield.

“I call it the Limelight Cowl. It is something that when you wear it, the limelight is on you,” says Lovin Each Stitch founder Cyndee Rasmussen.

Finding a pop culture touch inspired by the Hunger Games a pleasant surprise for young women searching locally for distinctive apparel.

Edmonton shopper Angela Naismith wiggles her way into the sweater with the help of Rasmussen.

“It’s nice to have the warmth without the bulk, especially on a day like this,” Naismith says.

The market stalls are packed tightly together each one vying for shoppers’ attention. Although Lovin’ Each Stitch may be tiny, it stands out like a little gem reflecting Rasmussen’s personality – trendy and imaginative, funky yet elegant.

While the cowl scarf sweater is a crowd-stopper, the bulk of Rasmussen’s inventory is eight lines of purses and whimsical scarves in bright-toned palettes.

The Morinville single mother of two daughters under the age of three stepped into the world of fashion quite by accident.

During her pregnancy with the eldest daughter, Rasmussen searched for a diaper bag that would fill her needs. Nothing from the big stores fit.

“I wanted it to be a reflection of me as a new mom.”

She opted to use cloth diapers and wanted something washable.

“I dusted off a rickety sewing machine my mom had given me to hem pants. I never knew it would take me down this wonderful path.”

She dubbed her first bag “Eve,” an original design with four functional elasticized pockets for baby’s needs and a one zip pocket for mom’s money, cellphone and keys. Practical yet feminine, Eve delivered an exclusive look. Friends soon requested copies with modifications here and there.

Rasmussen had worked as a jewelry store manager prior to maternity leave. A savvy businesswoman, she realized the requests signalled there might be a potential market for the bags.

She launched a Facebook page. Within the first hour, she’d made a sale.

“The first customer was Stacey. I sold her a crossover style messenger bag and it’s only fitting I named this line after her.”

The Stacey messenger bag, while washable and fully lined, also included a matching zipper clutch that created a more complete fashion statement and remains a top seller.

Facebook spread the word. A request from Bonnie came through for a bag big enough to carry a yoga mat. Rasmussen jumped on the idea.

“I asked friends about their ideal bags. I’m grateful women responded with such openness and were willing to share suggestions with me. I’m just me and I can’t know what everyone wants. I’m just so blessed.”

Once again, Rasmussen named the design after her muse Bonnie. The Bonnie is specifically designed to fit a rolled up yoga mat on the bottom.

“It’s made deep enough to put other gear on top – blocks and an extra change of clothes. There are dual zippered pockets, a slit pocket for a locker lock and an extended loop at one end to hang it in your locker during practice.”

And it’s machine washable.

“It’s very important for people who practice hot yoga. You sweat a lot and you want to wash it.”

What may not be immediately noticeable, but what sets these bags apart is how much thought Rasmussen puts into the requirements of consumers using her bag.

She goes further than creating an emotional response through the style, funky choices of material and quality construction. She also anticipates the different uses of a bag and accommodates it with different features.

For instance, the Samantha yarn tote bag was inspired by a friend that crochets and wanted to carry projects with her, working on them while riding the bus or waiting for an appointment.

What is most distinctive about this bag is that Rasmussen has sewn a large grommet hole into one end. As the yarn ball sits in the bag, a string is fed through the grommet hole and is attached to the knitting needles.

“When you’re done with the project, you pop it over and into the bag and you take it out the same way.” Easy and stylish.

For most of her designs, Rasmussen was just having fun unleashing her creative potential – until the day she created Buffy. This original design is basically a convertible messenger bag with two short straps that can be easily attached to the handles of a walker, wheelchair or stroller.

When Rasmussen first launched it, the bag was designed with a purple zebra print for a 12-year-old Calgary girl in a wheelchair.

“The young lady in the wheelchair loved it and it didn’t dawn on me until then how what I do enriches the lives of others. This shifted my perspective for me. It’s one thing to sell a bag, but this was a big deal for her.”

The Winnipeg born and raised entrepreneur has travelled a long distance since her more scholarly school days.

“I had no idea I had it in me.”

Rasmussen is exceeding the targets she set and credits enthusiasm, business know-how and a positive consumer response for her present successes.

“I’m loving each stitch and there is love in each stitch. I truly love doing this. It’s true what they say, ‘Find what you love to do and you’ll never work another day in your life.’ I do what I love and I take pride in what I do.”

Marketplace

In her Marketplace series, Gazette reporter Anna Borowiecki profiles interesting vendors she’s turned up at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.

The market runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.