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For Squirrel Hill designer, quality purses are just her bag

| Monday, March 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sandra Reiman, of Squirrel Hill, designs handbags, including the 'Giuliana,' a tote, Wednesday, March 20th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sandra Reiman, of Edgewood, designs handbags, including the 'Sofia, a clutch, Wednesday, March 20th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sandra Reiman, of Squirrel Hill, designs handbags, including the 'Isabella,' a satchel, Wednesday, March 20th, 2013.

Sandra Reiman carries it well.

The native of Colombia designs luxury handbags made of the finest leathers. She is founder and president of Sandra Cadavid (her maiden name).

“I want to prove that if you use high-quality materials that you can create amazing products that last a long time,” the Squirrel Hill resident says. “The idea is to design classic handbags and for them to be an investment.”

Reiman's purses are timeless and classic. She uses leather from Colombia where her line is produced. Every bag is handmade from alta gamma leather, which, Reiman says, is the highest-quality source leather.

Creating has always been her passion. As a child, she would design wedding gowns, bathing suits and, of course, handbags. In Colombia, she lived close to a market area where artisans sold their wares.

“I saw amazing leather products and became obsessed with the leather they used for handbags and pants and vests,” she says. “My family rented a home to someone who made leather shoes, and he would talk to me about leather. Colombia has some of the best high-quality leather you can buy.”

Prices for her handbags range from $475 to $625. She designs clutches, totes and satchels. Reiman plans to add items such as iPad cases, cross-body bags and a unisex briefcase to the line. Having each bag handmade adds to the integrity of the product, she says.

Reiman decided to pursue her dream to create luxury handbags while she was enrolled in a one-year MBA program in the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

She made a prototype bag, and friends, family members and people, in general, starting asking her about it.

An encounter with TV personality Giuliana Rancic in 2012 in Los Angeles helped boost the profile of Reiman's handbag line. Rancic noticed the bag, and, after talking, Reiman emptied the contents and handed it to her. A photo of Rancic holding the handbag was posted on Facebook, and in three weeks, Reiman had 200 orders.

Her bags were featured in the FashionAFRICANA show in December at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.

“She is amazing,” says Demeatria Boccella, founder and executive producer of the FashionAFRICANA event, who worked with Reiman's husband, Sam, at the Pittsburgh Foundation. “When I first saw her work, I was blown away.”

Boccella invited Reiman to pair her handbags with clothing designed by Kiya Tomlin for the fashion show.

“Sandra is the full package,” Boccella says. “She is her brand. I was impressed when I read her background. The fact she went to business school and took all the right steps to create a business plan, reach out to mentors for support, shows her dedication and passion. The handbags themselves are really beautiful. I have my eye on the hand-woven white clutch. It's on my list as an investment. It's such a beautiful piece.”

Reiman started the company in November 2011. She makes limited quantities of each bag. She has named one bag after Rancic and bags after her daughters, Isabella and Sophia.

The purses are available online at www.sandracadavid.com and at Victoria in Fox Chapel. They also are sold in boutiques in Denver, Boston and Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Victoria Pasula, owner of Victoria, says it took only a few seconds to realize the uniqueness in Reiman's handbags from the feel of the leather to the incredible design.

“Some designers just re-make other's items, but Sandra has created bags that are both luxurious, distinct, fresh and modern,” Pasula says. “When you are wearing something beautiful, you feel so great carrying a bag like one of her bags. I love beautiful things, and her line of handbags is beautiful.”

The 2012-13 collection is inspired by the 500-year-old fortressed Colombian city, Cartagena, and is designed to convey a sense of timeless luxury that blurs the lines of art, design and history.

The materials for each bag include custom-dyed leathers, made only for the Sandra Cadavid collection, and custom nickel, gold-plated and vintage-finish hardware. They are water impermeable, which means they are easy to clean in case of spills.

Colombian artisans with more than 30 years of experience constructing luxury leather goods assemble each bag by hand.

“I am not looking to be the next millionaire,” she says. “I enjoy it and have a passion for designer handbags. I try to keep prices reasonable, and I won't mass produce them, because I want them to be exclusive. If customers understand what they are getting in terms of quality, the price will be worth it.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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