Whether you shell out money for the newest designer handbag, or you prefer to shop for the best deals, there’s usually one common issue: wear and tear. And there’s one reason why this happens: poor craftsmanship. It was this exact dilemma that motivated Patricia Raskin to design her own line of handbags. “I found myself extremely frustrated by the relatively poor craftsmanship that I found in even expensive, well-known handbags,” she explains. “Time and again, I’d have something fall apart on me after spending a lot of money and three months later taking it back to the store. I decided there had to be a better way and started this.”
Her line, Anne Sylvain, features one-of-a-kind luxury bags made with leathers of genuine python, American alligator and South African ostrich. With Raskin’s small-batch designs, she’s able to keep an exclusive assortment for her customers across the country, oftentimes stopping in South Florida for private appointments. Clients have the option to buy a bag as is (she has a line of accessories as well), or they can make a special order, choosing the exterior and interior materials.
Her attention to ethical principals that are commonly unnoticed in large-scale manufacturing is what makes her line worthwhile. Throughout the years she’s researched where her leathers are sourced, how they’re dyed and how each company’s workers who provide them are treated. “One of the reasons why I work exclusively with suppliers that are based in the United States, South Africa and Europe is that these issues are highly regulated in those countries,” she says.
The leathers are then sent to her small factory in Florida where each piece is matched up by artisans one-by-one, ensuring a well-designed bag.
“What I’m doing now with luxury handbags is a bit of a disruptor model relative to what other luxury lines do,” Raskin says. “Producing limited edition all in the United States; sourcing my leathers exclusively through suppliers with ethical, outstanding reputations; and selling direct to customers around the country, thereby keeping my pricing relatively low.”
HOW TO PICK A WELL-MADE HANDBAG:
1. Look for a properly turned edge that is stitched like a hem. A lot of bags’ edges in all price ranges are simply cut and then painted on the edge to look finished. “Over time, especially on high-wear areas—on the strap or the top edge—a painted edge will chip, so if you’re looking for an investment handbag and you want something to last and look beautiful over time, that is one of the primary things to look at,” Raskin says.
2. Look at how many pieces were used to create the bag and how the patterns are matched up. A bag with mismatched lines typically indicates it was mass-produced.
3. The interior of a bag should be made with a durable material—the most durable being high-quality leather. “I like bright, fun colors in my bags, especially when it’s dark and it’s hard to find things in my bag,” she says. “I feel like the inside of a bag is for us. It’s happy.”
4. Leather quality. A bag is only as good as the quality of the leather that’s used. Leather that is surface-painted will not last and will show imperfections over time. Choose a bag that is dyed all the way through, either plunge dyed or drum dyed.