Artist of the Week - Sha'Lari Couture
In this week’s edition of Artist of the Week, we’re bringing you an interview with Shannon Richardson of Sha'Lari Couture. Shannon resides in Bridgeville, PA, and you can find her at www.shalaricouture.com.
Shannon Parris: Hi, Shannon! I'm already fond of you because we have the same name, but please introduce yourself - feel free to share any background about your personal life, family, work outside of making, etc.
Shannon Richardson: I have an Associate's Degree in Fashion Merchandising & Business Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Marketing & Management. I am currently working in the banking industry full-time and fully run the business with part-time hours.
Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of being in the fashion industry designing women's clothing. Little did I know, I would be creating, designing, & sewing handbags, diaper bags, and accessories.
SP: How exciting that you're getting to live your dream! Tell me more about your business.
SR: The story began many, many, years ago with a little girl, a sketchbook, and a dream. As a child, I knew at a young age what I wanted to be when I grew up - a fashion designer. As the years went by and time progressed, to my surprise nothing happened. Little did I know, something was on the horizon that would change my life forever.
I tried my hand at various projects over the years, hoping to find a hobby or something to occupy my time. One day, a friend had a project for me and invited me over. I had no idea what it was, but I just knew it was going to be great! I was so excited, that I arrived at her house a little early. Once inside, she called me into the kitchen. I walked in and she handed me four pieces of fabric and told me to have a seat in front of the sewing machine. I thought I was going to be doing this awesome project, not sitting down at a sewing machine. It was at that very moment that my dream was beginning to unfold and I did not realize it. Who would have thought that four pieces of fabric, a sewing machine, and some embellishments were going to change my life forever? I certainly did not!
Sha’Lari Couture started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a reversible tote in September 2012. It was the beginning of something new and unique. And, the rest is history.
SP: Do you have an “elevator pitch” that you use to sum it up when people ask what you do?
SR: From concept to design, Sha'Lari Couture specializes in handcrafted, one-of-a-kind handbags, diaper bags, & accessories.
SP: Where does the name Sha'Lari Couture come from?
SR: It's a combination of my name (Shannon) my mothers name (Lavonne) and my last name (Richardson).
SP: How long have you been a maker?
SR: It will be seven years in September.
SP: Since you design your bags, what is your creative process like?
SR: My creative process starts with the medium (fabric, leather, etc.). When I see a fabric, I immediately visualize what it’s going to be. It's almost like I can see the finished product, before I even make the purchase.
SP: How do you overcome creative blocks if you have them?
SR: If I hit a roadblock, I walk away from what I am doing for however long I need to. If that does not work, I will bounce ideas off of my mom to help me refocus my thoughts.
SP: Is there a tool you can’t live without?
SR: Yes, my itty, bitty scissors. I feel lost without them! I actually bought three pairs in case I lose a pair.
SP: Have you ever made an item that was difficult to part with?
SR: Yes. My favorite color is purple. I made a purple leather hobo last year and had a hard time parting with it.
SP: Do you have any of your own pieces in your personal collection?
SR: I have a few totes & hobos. I am still trying to get a cross-body bag... I just might have to have to have a talk with the designer about that!
SP: What surprises you about owning a creative business?
SR: The possibilities are endless! I also find it refreshing to come home from a long day’s work and letting the creative juices flow by designing.
SP: Is this something you'd like to do full-time eventually?
SR: Yes, this is my lifelong dream and I look forward to the day when I can do it full-time. I hope to take it a step further one day and design clothes to go with my handbags.
SP: What is the most challenging part of owning a creative business?
SR: Not having enough hours in the day to design and create and the late nights.
SP: So, how long have you been vending with I Made It! Market?
SR: It will be two years in August.
SP: Tell me about your journey to being accepted to your first event.
SR: I was tired of participating in events that were unproductive and unorganized. I decided to apply to one of the I Made It! Markets and did not get accepted. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Two years later, I decided to try apply again and was excited when I was accepted.
SP: Is there anything you noticed that you were doing differently that could've played a part your being accepted two years after you first applied?
SR: Yes, I think a lot had to do with my product (I was selling mainly diaper bags at the time), how it was presented, and the fact that I did not have a strong internet presence (no website and my FB page was unappealing).
SP: I'm glad you persevered! What is your favorite thing about being a part of the I Made It! Market community?
SR: The IMI Team!
SP: Awww thanks!
SR: You all play a major part and I thank you for that!
SP: What do you want aspiring makers or aspiring I Made It! Market artists to know?
SR: If I were to give advice to someone, I would tell them to have fun! Being a small business owner can be tough. I think we forget sometimes to take a deep breath and have fun.
SP: Do you sell on any other platforms or places? Where can customers find your work other than at I Made It! Markets?
SR: I sell my products on Etsy, my website, in person, and at the 2nd Avenue Boutique in Elizabeth, PA.
If you'd like to shop from Sha'Lari Couture's collection of beautifully handcrafted handbags, visit www.shalaricouture.com!