Thaddeus Du Bois Artist

The Interview: Thaddeus Du Bois's Handbag Designs Are Full Metal Fashion

Family, faith and fortitude have led Artist, Thaddeus Du Bois on a unique journey that's proved almost as intricate as his über cool couture creations. Du Bois creates bold, eye-catching, statement fashion handbags that are unlike anything you've ever seen before --these bags give one-of-a-kind an entirely new meaning.

Du Bois who started out with a swimming scholarship to the University of Alaska after graduating high school in 1991, with the intent to study Chemical Engineering, opted for a more creative career path of Artist. Before graduating college in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts, the Indiana native was able to travel all over the world to places such as Hawaii and even the Bering Sea. During those years, he found himself doing various jobs. A desire to serve our country led Du Bois to the Navy before an injury sidelined his ambition to become a SEAL which led to a re-assignment aboard a Submarine Tender. Upon leaving the Navy, life's path led to Du Bois working at a pizza joint in Kona, Hawaii (not a bad gig) to then working aboard a dive boat in the Cook Inlet. However,  it was a position at Nordstrom that made him take notice how much women liked handbags. Ultimately, Du Bois was led back to art and a passion struck for creating and designing sculptural handbags. In his spare time he began developing his craft with design and because the bills need to be paid he began to work as a Pharmaceutical Rep, among other jobs here and there. During this time he was able to show his work at a multitude of venues including  the SeaFair Mega Yacht in Sarasota, Florida.

A re-dedication to living for Jesus in 2011 has blessed the designer's life richly and contributes heavily to the influence in his artistry. Today, Du Bois is designing full-time and recently moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island with his beautiful wife, Kira and their daughter Genevieve, who was born just this past May. This week he will show his collection during Boston Fashion Week. I recently had the honor of speaking with Thaddeus about everything from his favorite design elements to what it was like designing his first handbag.

FWU: How did you know designing handbags was your passion?

Thaddeus Du Bois: I saw sparks when the idea was birthed. A woman named Christine said, “Why don’t you make handbags”. I said,“That’s dumb, those are for girls”. She said, “Look at them as sculptures and it’s really all about the hardware”. At that point I saw handbags in a whole new light and my passion was born.

FWU: Describe the current collection/designs you are creating.

Du Bois: Currently I’m making things that are a little more “mainstream” than my past designs. I’m working on designs that can be produced rather than made 100% Couture so that more people can own and enjoy my work. I still create the one of a kind Couture bags like my latest one, Pastor Travis’ Bible Case which is all hand dyed, hand sewn and hand forged hardware. I plan on keeping everything made in the United States of America even when my handbags are manufactured other than by my own hands.

FWU: Where do you draw inspiration for a piece or a collection and what is your creative process?

Du Bois: This varies widely, but ultimately all my inspiration comes from God. Basically I’m given or set parameters for the design as a base and it grows from there. For example, a client says I have this much money available, I like this color or this leather, I’d like such and such size carried like this and a pocket here and here. From there I like to look at the client’s personality, their lifestyle and design a bag that will compliment them. For bags I design for myself just because I want to I only set the parameters of how much money can I spend on it and how long do I want to spend making it. These pieces lean more heavily towards the art side and always tell a story.

FWU: Are there any Fashion or Accessories Designers style that you admire?

Du Bois: This might sound strange, but there aren’t any. There are aspects of some bags I like and some hardware that I think is pretty cool but ultimately they are all lacking and boring. I don’t want to sound arrogant and elitist but that is why I’m making handbags, because there just aren’t enough cool bags out there. There are handbags I’ve seen and I do love them and they are great designs but if I were to do it, I’d just do it a little differently.

FWU: Describe the first item {handbag or otherwise} you designed.

Du Bois: Ha ha ha, oh boy. I said, “I’ll make a handbag, this is easy”.  I had regular little sewing needles and maybe a two - four ounce suede leather, quilting thread and a thimble. I worked so hard to try to sew that leather, it was all by hand. Then I tried to incorporate the hardware I wanted. I forged out the hardware and tried sewing it to the bag, piercing the bag, gluing it and even welding the metal to the handbag. Picture this, I have metal on both sides of the leather, wet rags soaking the leather and I’m welding the steel to the bag, sparks all over, water dripping. I had no structure to the thing so I tried sewing in some copper wire. Oh wow, it was such a mess! I still have that bag, it makes me laugh to see it.

FWU: What are your favorite elements you like to use in your designs and why?

Du Bois: Metal, hands down I love metal!  Almost any combination of metal and leather I like, especially when the bag makes noise, like the clinking of metal or squeak of leather. Buckles and straps are obviously very cool. Another of my favorites is being versatile. Maybe the bag has a secret pocket, or adjusts or has some other function. I love multifaceted functionality.

FWU: So you are headed to Boston Fashion Week this week. Is this your first fashion week and what are you most looking forward to?

Du Bois: Yes, this is my first fashion week. I’ve shown my handbags in art galleries, and the Couture handbags like “Narcosis” just last year aboard the SeaFair Mega Yacht venue in Sarasota, Florida, but this is the first time they will be on models and going down a runway. I’m very excited!  I’m looking forward to putting on my tuxedo and getting the chance to share that first look on the runway with my wife, daughter, sister and maybe even my parents. I know they will be proud of me, I’ll probably cry.  Obviously looking forward to the orders we will write from the show also.

FWU: Which celebrity would you most like to see carry your handbags/designs on the red carpet. Which TV Show or TV character's could you see your handbags being featured?

Du Bois: The red carpet is exactly where I designed “The Emmy Clutch” (shown below) to be carried. This bag was designed with flash and glitter in mind, so I would love to see anyone walking the red carpet carry this bag.  As far as any other celebrities, I don’t know, Madonna? I’ve always liked her work but to have a celebrity really honestly like my designs and choose to carry one of my bags would be an honor. TV show, well, I don’t have a TV so I know I’m really not versed enough to even give a good answer to that question.


FWU: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

Du Bois: I plan on having my own stand alone Thaddeus retail stores some day so keep your eyes open.  I’ll design not only handbags for my store but nearly everything that could be called a home or body accessory. Furniture, plates, flatware, paintings, sculpture, shoes, handbags, sunglasses etc.  I’m excited to see it all come together.

You can purchase items or set up a consultation for your own custom couture bag designed by Thaddeus Du Bois by contacting him here. Be sure to check out his website and follow him on twitter.

~Christy Pastore @christypastore

Image Source: Thaddeus Du Bois

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