Diva Dish: In the Shop Exclusive with Handbag Designer Natalie Kathleen

Diva Dish: In the Shop Exclusive with Handbag Designer Natalie Kathleen

I was introduced to Natalie Kathleen through a mutual friend living in NoLita. We met for coffee where she shared her vision for her handbag line and her adventures creating the first Sienna Ray popup boutique in the neighborhood. I love a fellow female business owner and provided her with some synergistic intros. Not that I ever doubted her talent but when I went to her opening event, I was LOVING her lush leather goods! And I wasn’t the only one…

The Sienna Ray PopUp at 252 Mott Street in NYC, complete with hot pink back wall painted by Natalie herself, will be open until December 24th so hurry over for amazing goods, special treats and collaborations!

In the meantime, I got Natalie to spill on her collection, her inspiration, her advice to young entrepreneurs and her can’t-live-without life essentials.

How did you start Sienna Ray? 

Sienna Ray started one day on my kitchen counter… a creative desire to get my hands back into design… and the want for a leather handbag that I could be proud to wear. A touch of our now infamous pink stripe-y brand lining plus a bit of trial and error, and a handbag appeared a few hours later. From there it was a natural high that spread as I showed this hobo handbag to friends, colleagues at a magazine, and soon retail boutiques. The brand grew one magazine editorial, one boutique wholesale order at a time.

Where do you find your inspiration for each collection?

I find inspiration in everything, especially living in big cities such as NYC. For seasonal color selections, I listen to my instinct and it’s typically my current surroundings that influence them. I’m a very ‘hands on’ person so the touch of the leathers is also extremely important. My aim is to create our leathers with an outer attractiveness that draws a woman in to touch and feel.

What are some handbag trends we should be on the lookout for? 

Handbags that are structured yet soft and natural. Bags that look effortlessly chic. Think subtle hardware and a bag that truly matches a woman’s personal style. The “it” bag trend is definitely over. 

Let’s put this myth to rest: Should the bag match the shoe?

My style is bohemian chic with a feminine west-coast vibe. Hence, I’m not a big fan of being too “matchy matchy.” I like to take risks in life and my wardrobe, in a super playful way. Sometimes red & pink can surprise you – how good they look together if accessorized well!

What are your thoughts on the murse (man-purse)?

Men are surely a huge market that is becoming extremely more fashion-savvy. Having said that, they are über-practical and pay extreme attention to detail and quality. I think the so-called murse – or manbag as I like to refer to it – is now more of a necessity… a bulging pocket is not such a good look given the must-have iPhone and the current style of fitted jeans. Hence my slow and cautious move into men’s accessories, starting with wallets in my SR87 line. 

How would you describe your customer? 

The Sienna Ray woman is confident and strong, yet feminine. She is fashionable, but not label-obsessed. She likes to try new things and is a bit adventurous. She is also smart and needs something functional with a playful twist. Most are either highly active, multi-tasking business women or proud mothers – or both! This concept of having a bag that you can depend on for multiple occasions throughout even a single day is a top priority when designing my collection.

Why a PopUp in NoLita for the Holiday Season? 

Why not a PopUp in NoLita!?! This is the perfect time of year to grow my brand out east. Less than two months ago, I walked by this ideal Mott/Prince Street location when a friend perked up “you should open a holiday PopUp shop here.” The experience so far has been beyond my expectations. I am in love with the personal interaction I get with customers and the support from the community is like nothing else.

What’s a PopUp in a PopUp?

A PopUp in a PopUp is a series of mini events/collaborations with local designers that compliment the Sienna Ray brand. It is a way for us to “pay it forward” to the design community – aka other local inspiring brands, mainly women-lead – and help us combine our exposures to grow exponentially.Here’s what’s on tap.

Any advice for young entrepreneurs? What would you have told your younger self?  

To take action – talk is small but putting action behind your ideas and dreams will bring them to life. Believe in yourself and ask questions. It’s amazing what phenomenal advice I’ve received over a $5 cup of Starbucks!

What are 5 things you can’t live without?

1. My close friends and family. Growing a business is an adventure to say the least. Whether it’s support or a much-needed break from all things handbag, I am so grateful for all the wonderful people in my life.

2. Accessories. I’m always laughing when I pack for a trip because my suitcase is 1/4 clothes, 1/4 beauty products & definitely 1/2 shoes, handbags, scarves, gloves… I even travel with my favorite umbrella (the most under-appreciated accessory!).

3. Fresh air & sunshine. I believe I am solar-powered and time with nature, whether jogging, strolling the streets, snowboarding, or chilling on a bench, truly boosts my internal spark.

4. A good pair of jeans & heeled boots. I love jeans and the confidence a pair of sexy heels gives me, when I look good I feel good.

5. Pink lipstick. It is my signature. My eyes show my heart, my lips show my playfulness with life.

Photos by Aisha Singleton.