These past few months have been hectic with the influx of orders coming in for the holidays. But when the managing editor of a local lifestyle magazine approaches you to be a part of their December Design Issue, of course you say, yes! A huge thank to The Bend Magazine for including me in the mix. I am so incredibly honored.
If You Design It, They Will Come
11/27/2019 05:00PM ● By Kylie Cooper
Handbag Designer • Stanfield
Janice Stanfield is soft-spoken and reserved, a self-described introvert who very rarely likes to leave the house. She’s detail-oriented, and can basically design a bag with her eyes closed. When I step into her home studio, I begin to get a sense that her bags and the process by which she creates them are very similar to her as a being: refined, meticulous, a little sporty, and a little chic. “My designs are a part of my personality,” she says as she lays out the pattern for one of her backpacks – a best seller. “You are taking a part of my workmanship with you when you have one of my bags; these designs are an extension of myself.”
Although Stanfield hasn’t always designed bags for a living, she’s always had a creative touch. A crafty gal growing up, she learned how to sew from her mother around the age of 10. The first garment she ever put together was a “dreadful tank top.” She didn’t understand the concept of patterns quite yet, but realized she could take an already existing article of clothing and replicate it; and so, her fascination began.
Turning her talent for sewing into a career was something she didn’t think possible. So, she put that aspect of her life on the backburner and went to school for architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture. She continued to indulge herself in sewing projects on the side, constructing bags to fit her specific needs. In fact, that’s truly how the idea of Stanfield, the brand, was born – even if it took a couple more years for the idea to actually be implemented into reality.
She was living in Phoenix, working with Landscape Architecture, and needed a bag for a visit to a job site. She knew it needed to work as a carry-on, lightweight, super durable, and easy to clean. And thus, her discovery of a fabric called marine canvas was made, and would later go on to be the main fabric she creates each of her designs from today.
“My process usually starts with one of my own personal needs,” she says of her creative method when coming up with a new design. “That’s truly how it all started in the first place. I needed a bag, so I made myself a bag.”
After meeting her husband and moving back to California, she realized marrying into the military would cause her to essentially re-start every so often, which she wasn’t completely comfortable with. So in 2012, she decided to work for herself and create her sought-out bags for a living.
Fast forward to 2015, when Stanfield and her husband moved to the Coastal Bend. Like anyone (especially a business owner), moving to a new city where they knew no one was frightening. After some Instagram stalking and a few markets, Stanfield’s bags were officially on the map in the realm of local makers. Almost five years later, she now has six permanent designs in her collection, and it's only growing.
Tote bags, crossbodies, travel kits, accessories, and backpacks are all found in her assembly. The craftsmanship is extraordinary, and for good reason. Each bag takes anywhere between two to five hours to create – putting her at about two to three bags in a 10-hour work day. Every single detail of these designs is touched and made by her own two hands. “It’s such a personal thing for me,” she says of the handcrafted element. “You are investing in a piece of someone when you buy products that are made this way – an extension of oneself – and I think that is so intimate.”
That idea of intimacy is what draws Stanfield to events like pop-up markets, and to the eventual goal of opening her own brick-and-mortar. Allowing the customer to touch the bags and try them on brings an element to the consumer experience she feels is vital. Opening a spot of her own would also allow her to hold classes, provide her customers with a behind-the-scenes look at her process, and bring a safe space to the community where she would hope people could come and feel known and comfortable.
When I ask Stanfield what she’s most proud of, it isn’t easy for her to answer. She isn’t the type to boast or brag on herself – quite the opposite, actually. “For me to own my own business is kind of ridiculous,” she says with an ironic laugh, and I realize what she means. “You have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to do this kind of stuff, and that really isn’t me, so that is something that I am constantly pushing myself to do – and definitely something I am proud of.”
She is also persistently working on and proud of herself for combating negative thoughts. When you’re a maker of any form, wrestling with the thought of giving up and turning off the lights on your creative dreams occurs from time to time. “I feel like I have always been this way, second-guessing myself, never feeling important or heard,” she says. “And I think that in some form or fashion, starting this brand was almost a response to that, of being like, ‘Okay, here I am and I have something to say.’”
Sure, there are days where that is harder to remember than others, but for Stanfield, designing her bags and sharing them with the world will always bring a sense of joy to her life – one that is impossible to replicate in any other way.