Brandi Bautell Designs Handbags Inspired by Nature
Maris Rae Handbags is a brand created by a stay-at-home mom who worked through nap times and late nights to create dreamy designs she truly believed in. Brandi Bautell is a local model that graces many runways and wows everyone with her natural beauty but she has more gifts than her stunning physique and memorable smile. Bautell has a handbag brand that is carefully thought out, inspired by nature and is just as stunning as Bautell herself.
We spent some time asking Bautell about her collection and how she got started. This Michigan designer is one you just might connect with.
DFN: Tell us about Maris Rae Handbags
Bautell: Maris Rae Handbags is a handbag and accessories label that I created in 2006 while living in upstate New York. I have been a stay at home mom through it all, and have worked hard through nap times and late nights to develop products I can be proud of.
My husband bought a sewing machine for my birthday in 2004, and when I learned how to sew, it was as though a new facet had been added to my world, and the possibilities of what could be just about blew my mind. The first thing I ever made was a simple little bag, and I never stopped making bags. As an artist, I love the empty canvas that is a handbag. My templates evolved from there, and I learned as I made more and more bags what I liked and what I wanted to change. My seam ripper and I have a complicated relationship; we’ve been through a lot together.
I began by selling my bags at a local farmers market, and I had someone help me develop a website to help keep connected to my customers. My husband was in the military at the time, so we endured multiple moves, to Arizona, then Texas. Each place I managed to get into large juried art shows where I could sell my bags. I was encouraged by how well they were received, and by the number of repeat customers! I also got local boutiques to carry my line in each place we lived. I have had them in shops in Lake Placid, Tuscon, and Bisbee. My sister, Raquel, helps me with the sewing in the busy times, when I am feeling overwhelmed. When my husband got out of the military, we moved back to Michigan and bought a house in Ypsilanti. I slowed things down quite a little bit after our third son was born, but I don’t think I will ever stop making things. Everything is still designed and handmade by me in my home. I think one of the things that makes my label unique is my fabric choices and how I pair them up. I love to use textured upholstery fabrics- they just add an element that makes the bag so much more interesting.
DFN: Who is Maris Rae? Why did you choose this name for your brand?
Bautell: Maris Rae is my Momma. I chose to name my business after her because she has always been an encouragement to me in my creative endeavors, so I wanted to honor her in this way. She is a quiet, creative type, who instilled in me from a young age, a deep love for nature. Not in a hippie, tree hugger kind of way, but rather seeing it as a free source of adventure and discovery. She taught me how to fish, how to clean fish, and how to cook. My mom and dad both taught me how to appreciate the little things in life…how to pause to marvel at the design of a flower, or a bug, a spiderweb, a tree, nest or bird. To this day, I still thrive on my alone time exploring God’s creations. It soothes my soul and provides inspiration for more handbag collections than I could ever produce in a lifetime.
DFN: So nature is your main source of inspiration when creating?
Bautell: Almost always nature. I love to showcase God’s Creation through my work! The patterns, colors, textures, and combinations of any of those things can inspire me. To me, Creation points so clearly to our Creator’s intelligent design and I love to translate that into a beautiful handbag. Once in a while my inspiration comes from something manmade or maybe even an emotion.
DFN: Have you always known you wanted to be an accessories and handbag designer?
Bautell: Nope. I was definitely never that little girl who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. I have always found so many different things in life interesting, that the idea of choosing one career path and committing to it terrified me. I think this is one of the curses of a creative mind. I have always enjoyed making things, though, and I prefer physical, hands on work.
DFN: What type of woman carries your handbags?
Bautell: Women who are looking for something as unique as they are, but do not want to compromise functionality. I also get quite a few customers who confess they are not actually handbag people, but like a bag they see in my collection so much that they buy it anyway. I find that to be a great compliment!
DFN: That’s great! Your designs must inspire them! Where can new clients buy your handbags?
Bautell: I sell my items online through my etsy shop which can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/marisraehandbags. I also sell at various art shows, which I will post about on social media when events get closer, and through word of mouth. Clients can email me at [email protected] if they would like to set up an appointment to visit my studio and browse my inventory in person and/or to place a custom order. One can also follow Maris Rae Handbags on social media to see peaks behind the scenes of my brand, and what the newest pieces are.
DFN: Tell us something about yourself no one else knows? Any hidden talents?
Bautell: I can juggle. I know, a totally useless skill, but when I was a kid, I was determined to learn how and I would practice with apples and oranges from my parents’ countertop. I practiced every day until I got it. I don’t remember how long it took me, but I do know I ate a lot of bruised apples and mushy oranges for a while. As an adult, I still like to challenge myself with learning new skills, and if I decide I’m doing something, I’m an all or nothing kind of person…I’m either all in or I don’t want to bother.
DFN: That’s fun! We noticed you do a great job at juggling a modeling career, a family and your handbag collection. You also have time to stand up for what you believe in. We noticed you played a huge role in Dedicated Magazine’s #Momentum project for their February issue. What is your platform and why is it important to you?
Bautell: Yes, I was honored that Cheryl Zemke asked me to be a part of her #Momentum project for Dedicated Magazine. I was asked to help with some of the creative videos for the project because Cheryl knew I love telling stories visually, and she liked a couple previous videos I made from fashion shows in which I modeled for her brand. My #Momentum platform is granting micro loans to women globally, who are living in extreme poverty and face oppression and injustice in their lives.
DFN: That’s definitely a good one that needs more attention. What local organizations do you belong to, to help make a difference in the community?
Bautell: After I read the book, Half the Sky, I was compelled to do something to make a difference. I donate a small amount of proceeds from Maris Rae Handbags to a group called iZōsh, who educates, trains, and then grants microloans to women in extreme poverty. Even a small amount of money in a woman’s hand empowers her to take care of her children and start a business of her own, changing not only that woman’s life, but her children’s lives going forward. Since it’s formation in 2012, I have been a member of iZōsh, founded in Ann Arbor, MI. We meet twice a year to be educated by experts in the field regarding the issues women in poverty face, then discuss and decide which women living in poverty will be granted a loan. Our next meeting is March 16 in Ann Arbor, MI. Please contact me if you are interested in coming to see what it’s about; any woman is welcome!
DFN: Are there other local handbag designers that inspire you? Why?
Bautell: I am actually new to the fashion scene here in southeast Michigan this year, so I wouldn’t say there is a specific local handbag designer that inspires me. However, I have done a lot of modeling this year, and I will say that it has been a wonderful look behind the scenes of fashion! I have met so many beautiful creative souls in the fashion industry here this year, and that itself been incredibly inspiring. I look forward to meeting even more fellow creatives this upcoming year!
DFN: Where do you see Maris Rae Handbags in five years?
Bautell: I have some ideas, but need help developing them. I would like to travel to different areas/cities, gather inspiration through experience, photos and videos, and use that inspiration to design collections specific to that area, and make hangtags depicting what inspired that specific handbag design. I did this for one place I traveled to and I see so much potential for this business idea. I know I have the artistic talent to make it a success; I just need to find the right business partner!
DFN: Thank you Brandi. It was very kind of you to speak with us today. It was great learning about your brand and how dedicated you are. We appreciate your time.
Bautell: Thank you so much for the interview. It was my pleasure!