One of the many great events that kicks off car show season in Buffalo, NY is the Buffalo Motorama. This was the first year we sponsored Motorama's Open Wheel Room and it was such a success we can't wait until next year!
While there we were lucky enough to meet a vendor that we think really fits the mission of Cats Like Us: One Tough Chick. When we saw her vendor's booth of shiny studded bags, you can bet I was excited-- after all, I'm easily distracted by shiny things! I spoke to the owner, Zofia, and was thrilled to hear she makes custom bags. Needless to say, I had to share these high quality, hand made bags with my customers. So this is her story, check out her fabulous bags, and be sure to look at all the custom bags she made just for our shop!
How long have you been One Tuff Chick Handbags?
I’ve been designing and producing purses and some clothing pieces since 2008 but not until last year did I really start making a business out of it. I remember sitting at my computer at 2am and figuring out how register for a tax id number and putting all of my creations on my etsy webpage.
How did it start? Where did the name come from?
I believe a friend asked me to create a custom purse for her in high school, and that is what sparked designing and sewing purses. I’ve always sewn though. Both my great grandmother and my mother sewed and they definitely taught me the ropes.
The name One Tuff Chick came from a broken heart. I was 18 and had dated a couple of guys in high school. I probably had fallen in love with all of them, but those relationships faded, like most high school relationships do and at 18, it felt like the end of the world. So I concentrated all of my efforts into sewing and applying to college instead of chasing yet another boy. I fell in love with the idea of a girl that wouldn’t take sh!t from anyone, who stood on her own two feet, and wasn’t afraid to throw a punch or two and One Tuff Chick was born!
Do you have any formal training?
Yes, I have a two year fashion design degree from FIT in NYC where I learned the ins and outs of fashion and how to sew with my eyes shut. There I met a girl who lived in one of the dorm rooms a few floors up from me that was an accessory major and I was constantly asking how to properly sew my purse designs.
Why do you like working in vinyl and studs?
Over the years I’ve tried creating using other materials but I just keep finding myself coming back to the vinyls. I think it’s a combination--I like how I can create a free standing object with the vinyl, its a very durable material and I can get it any color, glitter included. I love adding the different top stitching designs and the studs because I love how I can add a little or a lot of flare to a bag. For example the 57 bags are a simple red creation with matching red top stitching. I feel that its simply understated without being boring.
What are your influences for each design?
The original “Doctor” bag was inspired by the old school doctor bag shapes and those satchels that girls would carry on their forearms while shopping. I think a major influence was the Chanel bags. When I first started sewing handbags I was interested in a way to spruce up a purse without adding more panels or colors, thus the silver fishnet stitching evolved. From there a lot was from the old school seat stitching patterns. Most of the time I’ll be sewing a purse and I’ll be like “this is great but what if I did...” and another design is created.
What is your most popular bag style and why? What is your most popular color?
The most popular styles are the doctor bags, I think this is because not only are they adorable they are a decent price point and one thing I love about them is the fact that the bag can fall over and many times nothing will fall out. I think the most popular color is probably Plum Crazy, the sparkle purple.
How long does it take you to make one bag?
It usually depends on how much top stitching there is involved, but I think the average time per bag is 3-4 hours. I’ve started to sew multiple bags factory style so now I can have about 4-5 bags done in about 5 hours. Plus, having Pandora and Netflix on my iPad is always helpful.
What are you most proud of?
Its probably got to be actually sewing and pulling it all together for the Buffalo Motorama. Up until then, One Tuff Chick had strictly been an internet based business. So I could get away with only have to sew as needed or only having a few pieces of inventory in stock but with the show I had to organize my time and get it all together in order to create around 120 purses for one event.
Cats Like Us met you at Buffalo Motorama, are you interested in car culture? Do you have a favorite classic? What do you drive? What would you like to drive?
I’ve always been interested in the car culture, since I was probably five, my dad has taken me to every single car show he could find. My favorite was always the Rockabilly Rumble in CT where most of the cars were rat rods and a lot of the people were dressed in rockabilly attire.
My favorite classic car is a 1968 Chevy Camaro. I’ve always loved Camaros and the ‘68’s still have those awesome triangle windows in the doors.
I currently drive a 2003 Subaru WRX. I know many people consider them a “ricer” car but I love it. It’s my first car and it has a stage two exhaust, intake, and ECU mapping which my friends and I did ourselves. Plus it hauls ass!
I definitely wouldn't say that I wish I was driving something else, because I love my car, I can race teenage boys in their Honda’s, and win. It would be nice to have a weekend hot rod, like an old Camaro or Nova. I had a friend with a ‘73 Omega and some of my favorite memories are of us just taking it out on those perfect summer nights and weekends and just driving and driving.
What can we look for from you in the future? Vending anywhere? How can people get in touch with you? Etsy?
Right now I’m working on smaller cross body bags that can be converted into shoulder bags. They’re for the summer so they’re coming in Americana prints with lots of studs of course. I’m also starting to sew a tiny summer clothing collection, so that might start to pop up online as well.
I’m not vending any where yet, but I will be starting to offer local pick ups and shopping from my house and I do have a purse party in the works, what could be better then purses, wine and cupcakes?!
One Tuff Chick is everywhere! We’re on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get updates on new items and sales that are happening.
I recently signed up for a Tumblr account, where I’m posting behind the signs looks at the production, and a little more contact with me as the designer.
What’s it like working with Cats Like Us?
Working with Cats Like Us has been awesome. Julie Ann has been very helpful and has really opened my eyes to some color combinations for purses that I hadn’t even thought of but looked great once they were sewn. I can’t wait to see how they look all set up in her shop!
Shop all One Tuff Chick at Cats Like Us:
A big THANK YOU to Zofia for taking the time to answer my questions and wait to see what she'll have in store for us in the future!!