Memphis woman turns love of art into fast growing handbag line

Memphis woman turns love of art into fast growing handbag line

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Katie Kalsi's handbags have interchangeable straps. Katie Kalsi's handbags have interchangeable straps.
The bags are on display at Belk in West Town Mall. The bags are on display at Belk in West Town Mall.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

MEMPHIS (WATE) - A  love of art as a young child has turned into an unlikely business success for a Tennessee woman.

Katie Kalsi didn't even buy her first handbag until 2001. Now she's designing one of the fastest growing custom, handcrafted handbag lines in production.

Made in Tennessee tracked Katie down recently. She's been traveling around the country promoting a new deal with Belk department stores.

One of the most eye catching things about Katie's line, now displayed at Belk in West Town Mall in Knoxville, are the hobo bags with the painted interchangeable straps.

"The fact that people can walk around with artwork on their shoulders, I just think that is so cool," she said.

The 33 year old has been an artist for as long as she can remember. In 2006 she married her love of oil painting with handbags. "I hand painted every one of those straps. It was nuts, but it was worth it," Katie said.

She made the first two dozen at her Memphis home and says the look quickly caught on. "People just started wearing them around and then people just started asking for them."

Katie was able to partner with someone and when production picked up, some big name stars started to take notice.

"Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Pat Benatar, Lisa Marie Presley that is a good one. She said she wore a hole in hers she wore it around so much," Katie said with a laugh.

Katie Kalsi bags have been almost solely in boutiques until just a few weeks ago. She inked a deal with Belk and now the bags are sold in 70 Belk stores in 11 states.

"I am a Tennessee girl and I am very excited to be part of Belk," she told us.

Proto-types for the bags are still being done in Tennessee, but production is being done in another state.

However that may change one day.  "I would love to have a factory in Memphis, Tennessee," Katie said.

Kalsi bags start around $200 and if you like her interchangeable straps, she says she has about 20 new strap designs ready for her fall line.

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