When you enter Satchel’s flagship store on Liberty Street, you enter with all of your senses: first, you are hit with the smell of leather and the sound of buzzing sewing machines in the back of the shop—and then the sight of leather bags, in all sizes and an array of muted, natural tones. You are drawn to touch these magnificent purses, carry-ons, totes, backpacks, clutches, and wallets created out of slick, soft leather and furry natural hides.
If the leather goods on display don’t speak to you, the team behind the counter is ready to help you craft a custom bag to fit your every need. That is the true passion of this all-women team of makers; as Elizabeth Seeger, founder and owner of Satchel, says, “We really like when our bags have a history behind them and our clients tell us the story of why they want that bag and how it came to be. The sentiment, and the name, sticks.”
“For one of the first bags I ever made, I cut up my dad’s leather jacket and turned it into a bag. The name stuck; it was called “The Dad’s Jacket Bag.” As we designed bags, and as our styles grew, we had to start naming them. A lot of times, we name them after the person who designs or inspires them,” Elizabeth explains, “My mom was a stewardess for TWA back in the 1960s and that’s how she met my dad. My dad was an airline pilot for TWA for 32 years. They got married in San Francisco where they were both based. When he would fly back to San Francisco later in his career, my mom would send him with this tote bag she had made so he could bring home sourdough bread for her. It was just this slouchy roll-up tote bag that she made out of upholstery fabric. We did a new version of that bag out of really soft leather, called “The Stewardess Tote.” We did it in two sizes and it’s one of our bestsellers.”
The bag you create just might become a regular product offering, bearing your name. “People take it as such a pride point to have one of our designs named after them,” explains Katherine Dagen, Satchel’s sales and marketing manager, “which is always really fun because part of becoming an honorary Satchelette is you get your name on the bag, and then lots of other people are carrying not only a part of Savannah, but a part of your Savannah.”
“We call ourselves the Satchelettes.” This is Mary Kate Polsinelli, who is in charge of design, production, and sourcing, and who has just whipped up a dreamy dark brown leather clutch in front of our very eyes. “We’re a really awesome leather girl gang here at Satchel. We make ourselves matching bags so whenever we go out for drinks we all have the same bag.”
She hops from a table, where she cuts the leather with an X-Acto knife, to a sewing machine, where she stitches the wristlet, pouch, and zipper, to a branding station, where she sets the Satchel logo, finally “birthing” the bag by turning it inside out. The finished product is flawless, effortlessly chic, fully handmade, and made from ethically sourced materials—and all created while Mary Kate chatted away with us, smiling the whole time. “I’ve run the needle through my finger only once,” she says, “but, yes, these machines are heavy-duty.” With all the knives, hot irons, needles, and other tools, it seems “leather girl gang” is quite fitting for this creative crew. Who knew making stylish, yet practical, leather goods was such a dangerous profession—and one only a team of women could take on?
Elizabeth founded Satchel in 2006, after graduating from SCAD and trying out one year in Los Angeles. She hurried back to Savannah, where she met Mahala Lewis, the second original Satchelette, in 2009. With a history of making baby bags and children’s clothes under her belt, Mahala took charge of refining Satchel’s designs and streamlining the production process. In 2014 Mahala and Elizabeth created Satchel’s sister company, Port City Sewing Factory, which produces all of Satchel’s wholesale and non-custom designs. Having amassed this tight-knit group of talented professionals, Satchel has been thriving ever since. Although their products are sold in boutiques across the country, Katherine points out, “We want to make sure our flagship location remains a destination and that it’s unique, so we do a lot of limited edition pieces on exclusive leathers here in the store.”
Coming in to Satchel for a limited edition bag, or for a bag you design yourself for all your tote-related needs, is highly recommended. But even more so, what we hope you are able to experience is a few moments with the ladies of Satchel, whether they are working away in the workshop space of their open-plan shop or out on the floor answering customer questions. Let your senses take in the wonders of the shop and its products, and let yourself be inspired by the power of a creative community of women. And, finally, we recommend you ask what it takes to become an honorary Satchelette. We’re in the club; we’ll see you there.