Accessories

The Handcrafted Handbags of Maddy Nash

Kansas City gal Charity Ohlund’s Maddy Nash line of clutches is one to get your hands on.

Charity Ohlund didn’t even know how to sew when she set out to make some cute, colorful purses to give as gifts, but within a few months friends near and far were clamoring for her clutches. The following year she launched her label, Maddy Nash, and now her products are sold locally at Clique Boutique in Prairie Village and Hoopla Studio in Fairway, as well as at several other boutiques around the country. Although the business has grown dramatically over the past three years, all Maddy Nash products are still made right here in Kansas City by a small team of very talented women.

Photos by Heather Morrow

 

Q. How did Maddy Nash get started?

A. Each year, my husband and I try to think of a “cool” homemade holiday gift for our large extended families. One year, we bottled homemade eggnog and Kahlua. We printed cute labels and used recycled Boulevard Beer bottles and handed them out at the numerous gatherings and parties throughout December.

In October of 2011, I was trying to think of something new and different. I called my husband at work to say that I was going to attempt to make personalized clutch purses for our female friends and family. He laughed out loud and said, “Oh sure! You don’t even know how to sew on a button. I do that for you. And, by the way, you don’t own a sewing machine.” The challenge had been presented, and like most wives, I wanted to prove him wrong.

I borrowed a friend’s sewing machine and made about six bags before I had one that didn’t look homemade. I bought all sorts of graphic patterned fabrics and contrasting interior colors. By the time I had made about 20 clutches, I was pretty amazed that this idea seemed to be working out. (And even my husband was impressed.) The personalized labels inside each purse were what made them so special to me. I was able to customize each one with a message of love or an inside joke.

I posted a few photos of my creations to Facebook in late October 2011, and friends immediately started messaging me to see if I could make bags for them to give as gifts. Soon, those friends’ friends were contacting me. By Christmas, I had sold about 200 clutches in 18 states, including Hawaii, all from Facebook sharing.

I never intended for clutch making to turn into a business. After that whirlwind holiday season, I was just happy to have covered my expenses and to have made a very small profit. I treated it as a fluke.

But in late January, a good friend of mine who has her own successful business asked to meet for coffee. She had bought five or six bags for Christmas. She told me that she thought this could turn into a viable business for me. She spent the next hour telling me everything she knew about how to get started. The rest, she said, was up to me. Sometimes it just takes that special someone to open your eyes to your own dreams and possibilities.

I took all her advice and launched maddynash.com in February 2012. In the beginning, I only had the one clutch style. But immersing myself in the business also awakened my creativity and I have since designed four additional styles, including a wristlet and a large tote.

Maddy Nash had several big breaks in the first year. The line was featured on the flash sales site Joss & Main and sold out in less than an hour. Later that year, we were featured in Southern Living Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide and that put us on the national map.

In our second year, we were fortunate enough to be included on “The Today Show,” InStyle Magazine, People StyleWatch Magazine and dozens of bridal, regional and local publications.

Q. What’s the significance of the name?

A. Maddy Nash is named after my two sons, Maddux (9) and Nash (6). I received a great piece of advice from my aforementioned friend/mentor who told me to choose a business name that didn’t “lock” me in to one type of product. I agonized for weeks about a good name. Then one day, I yelled out the back door, “Maddy! Nash! Time for dinner!” I stepped back inside and whispered, “Maddy Nash…Maddy Nash. That’s it.”

Q. How did Maddy Nash go from doing made-to-order styles to getting your collection into local boutiques?

A. Kansas City is such a cohesive and supportive city for entrepreneurs. I find that most stores and boutique absolutely jump at the chance to carry local products.

My approach was simply to walk into the stores that I wanted to be a part of and talk to the owner. I didn’t treat it as a sales call. I simply got to know them, let them get to know me and sales seemed to be easy from there. The press coverage has been instrumental in getting Maddy Nash into boutiques nationally.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for the designs?

A. Well, first of all, the women in my life are never shy about telling me what they want. The tote was designed after my loyal fans told me they wanted a bigger bag from the Maddy Nash line. I went through several silhouettes and iterations, sending photos and samples to my most fashionable advisers. We ended up with something that really fit the line well. Lately, people are asking for a crossbody bag, so we are working on that. I am inspired by clean lines and statement fabrics and materials that can take a simple look (an LBD or jeans and a white tank) and make it memorable.

Q. What colors and patterns are most popular in the Maddy Nash line?

A. We have more than 30 fabrics that are constantly rotating and changing. Most people agonize over picking just one. But the patterns in grey, navy blue and pink are consistently the most popular.

Q. Any predictions on trend colors and patterns for the coming seasons?

A. Bright shades of red, coral, orange and pink are big for fall, and the patterns are still clean and bold, like chevron, but with more movement and interest such as new takes on Greek key patterns and tribal prints. We’re loving shimmery shades of white, cream and oyster paired with edgy gold and silver hardware.

Q. Which celebrities would you love to see carrying a Maddy Nash bag?

A. My biggest thrill is when I see a total stranger walking around the Plaza or out at a restaurant carrying one of my bags. I am so appreciative of the support that Kansas City women show for their own local entrepreneurs. As for celebrities, how’s this for a fantasy? Beyonce and Kate Middleton are photographed together (probably while walking up to Oprah’s house) while holding their babies on one arm and their Maddy Nash bags on the other. Boom.

Q. What’s coming up for you?

A. I am working on a line that I’m very excited about. It’s called Maddy Nash After Dark, and it’s a line of edgy bags in embossed animal pattern faux leather (think crocodile and snake) accented with metal studs, chains, zippers, etc. Look for it in time for holiday 2014.