Bun Bun Bags

Do you notice “made in America?” tags? Ever wonder if they are 100% made in America? Did you hear that a few years ago there were several factories for major brands operating on a small island territory called Saipan where workers were not covered by American labor laws yet “made in America” tags went into the clothes. I always note when a company claims to manufacture goods in the United States. And
I pay special attention when I can verify the claim.

There has been a small company making waves in my hometown recently. “Bun Bun Bags” are cute and trendy cloth bags & purses favored by a few of my friends. Last week the ballet studio my daughter attends teamed up with a Bun Bun Bag representative for a fundraiser. Buy the bags and a % will benefit the school. So I took a look.

Interesting. These bags are “made in America.” So I checked the website, where it states that the bags are not just made in America they are sewn by seamstresses in Richmond Virginia in their homes. These are Americans living in the United States, receiving a reasonable wage and working in reasonable working conditions. So I called a friend of mine who happens to be a co-owner of the company and in charge of marketing and asked her to meet me. And she did.

Over lunch Colleen shared that the company had originally been started by two friends, one who could sew and one who had a background in business. It grew much more quickly than they had expected and they actually decided to close the company. But Tracey Portillo, then a Sales Representative, decided to purchase the company. Tracey, Colleen, Katy, Jennifer and Paty create the current ownership team and you can find out more about each one on their website.

Colleen explained that in the “shop” there are master patterns for each design offered. Each bag is custom designed: clients choose a pattern, they choose the fabrics, they choose any additional add-ons or personalization. The order comes into the shop; the pattern is cut from the fabrics on the order, placed into a “kit bag” along with any snaps, hoops or so on and made ready for the seamstresses. Seamstresses come in once a week to pick up “kit bags” go home and sew the kits and return them the following week. Once the finished bags are returned to the shop they are inspected for quality and a sort of “store standard.”

Currently orders for bags are sold in two ways. There are trunk show hostesses and there are personal shoppers. Trunk show hostesses pay an initial fee, receive a trunk full of samples, hold a show and submit orders. They can host twice a year, for the fall season and the spring season. Personal shoppers operate throughout the year; they purchase a kit and sell for commission all year long.

In preparation for the fall and spring lines the owners ask the seamstresses to submit new designs for bags (if you look at the website you’ll see that each bag design credits it’s designer) and they travel to fabric shows. Bun Bun Bags uses American Fabric Mills. Colleen said that the current fabric supplier runs a small family mill in Mississippi.

Another personal touch that Colleen mentioned, seamstresses include a card in their work. When you receive a bag you’ll also receive a card identifying the seamstress who created your bag for you.

I love that this small business focuses on “made in America” and quality handmade products that clients can be proud to own. At a time when we are all being asked to support fellow Americans and small businesses I think it is important to recognize those within our mists who are doing exactly that.

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