Designer: 'Great handbag can empower a woman'

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Handbags have histories. They hold a woman's personal items and go with her through many facets of her life.

A handbag also says something about the woman carrying it, handbag designer Patricia Nash says. It represents her fashion style.

“I love when I meet a woman, and she tells me the story of her handbag,” says Nash, who will share her stories about creating handbags Sept. 18 at Macy's in South Hills Village. “I love to go to vintage shops where you can find the most interesting bags. That's how I started collecting handbags. Women love to talk about a bag their mother or grandmother had.”

The hobby of collecting purses — after practically filling a garage with her purse collection, to the point her husband suggested she get a warehouse — Nash was inspired to create a line of purses crafted from the finest Italian leathers. Her newest collection of Patricia Nash Handbags features bags in vegetable tans and florals, plus new finishes like cracked metallics and unique oil-rub veneers in bold colors. They feature studding, metalwork and one-of-a-kind printed designs.

She takes inspiration from classic, Old World European silhouettes and striking design elements gleaned from her travels. Her bags are hand-crafted, including the dying, cutting and sewing, with hand-burned edges and a hand-embossed logo.

“Handbags are a way to express yourself,” Nash says. “They are something very personal, and what you like might be different than what other women like, but that is OK, because you should carry the bag that fits your style. A great handbag can empower a woman.”

The importance of handbags will be part of her message. Nash, who is based in Knoxville, Tenn., says she enjoys meeting the ladies who carry her bags. She welcomes feedback — positive and negative — and takes that advice into consideration when designing.

Nash will discuss the process of choosing the materials and the craftsmanship that goes into each purse.

Her purses range from $98 to $248. Pittsburgh is one of 10 cities on this tour, including four at Macy's sites. Her bags also are available at the Downtown store as well as the Macy's at Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, The Mall at Robinson and Westmoreland Mall.

“We couldn't be more excited to host Patricia Nash and showcase her incredible collection of handcrafted Italian leather handbags and accessories,” says Shawn Hummell, vice president store manager of Macy's, South Hills Village.

Even if someone doesn't like one of her handbags, Nash says she hopes they can still appreciate the process and admire the work that went into it.

Nash's bags have been carried by celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Vanessa Hudgens and Denise Richards.

She's teamed with 16 celebrities such as January Jones and Elizabeth Hurley to auction their individually signed bag for Breast Cancer Awareness starting Oct. 1. Nash created the “Terri” bag for breast-cancer patients undergoing treatment. It's named for a breast-cancer survivor who wrote a touching letter to Nash.

“I tell women to step out of the box and try something different in a handbag,” says Nash, who started the company in 2010. ”The only thing that is more enticing than the aroma of rich leather is the smell of good food.”

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

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