Small Business: Designing, sewing keep Texstyle Bags owner in stitches daily

By Lesley Young
Posted November 21, 2011
The Commercial Appeal

PHOTO BY MIKE MAPLE // BUY THIS PHOTO "When I make a bag, I always get ideas for four or five other bags. I can't sketch fast enough," said Samilia Colar, 27, who works from her home studio in Cooper-Young.

Samilia Colar could use an extra set of hands.

Or three.

When she’s not looking after her 2-year-old son, Liam, she’s fiercely sketching new ideas or implementing them on her sewing machine.

“I’m a team of one,” said the 27-year-old owner and designer of Texstyle Bags, a handmade bag business created solely by the Memphis College of Art grad.

Colar designs, sews and distributes more than 40 bags a month via her website,texstylebags.com, all from her Cooper-Young home.

She has eight styles to choose from — for now.

“When I make a bag, I always get ideas for four or five other bags. I can’t sketch fast enough,” she said.

She also draws her creativity from her cohorts.

“I get inspiration from my friends. They’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, I need a bag that does X, Y and Z,'” Colar said.

She gives them credit, even naming the bags after the friends that inspire them.

Like the Natasha, a diaper bag disguised as a sleek, feminine messenger bag, or the Amina, a “large-sized classic (that) is both stylish and practical,” and the Rebekah, a fashionable book bag.

Her first design was born out of practicality.

The night before her trip to her family’s homeland in Nigeria, she made herself a travel bag using a Nigerian print.

“I started to wear it everywhere, to church, and people would come up to me and say, ‘That’s a cool bag. Can you make me one?’ ” Colar said.

Her heritage plays heavily into her daily life as well.

“After (my) visit to Nigeria in college I became obsessed with minimizing waste. I’m always asking myself, ‘How can I make this myself with what I already have?’ I’m very resourceful that way and I love making things from scratch — not just bags, but food, hair-care products, and other things,” she said.

This mentality added a new bag to her line, the clutch.

Rather than throw out her scraps of materials, she designed a bag around the materials.

It takes her about three hours to craft her bags from start to finish, although at first the process wasn’t quite as streamlined.

“When I first started, it took forever to make just one,” she said. “I’ve been able to get my time way down now that I know how each style goes.”

The seed was first planted for Colar’s bag business while she was studying graphic design at MCA.

“My senior year I started getting ideas for bags that look similar to African talking drums. I made some sketches, and I started to make a few, but my first attempt at the Drum Bag was a disaster, so I left it uncompleted for a couple years,” she said.

A job and a move to Philadelphia later, she found herself going back to her bags.

“I perfected my designs, and I got a lot of good responses from my friends” she said.

The positive responses kept coming in, and eventually her husband encouraged her to pursue her bags full-time.

In addition to hoping to hire a few extra hands, she also wants to add a new sewing machine to the household.

“I’m saving up for an industrial machine,” she said.

“I have a vision for a new line of handbags that uses more leathers and waxed canvas. I foresee a slightly upscale line. Leather is just classic,” she said.

Texstyle Bags

Owner: Samilia Colar

Online: texstylebags.com