Americans buy two billion dollars of cases and bags for their consumer electronics products every year, according to CEA. A few years ago, most of those bags looked all the same: black or gray and utilitarian, the kind of products you’d see in the back of aisle four at business supply stores. In 2006, however, CE bags have become a fashion accessory, and if Kat Terrell has her way, they’ll soon be haute couture.
Terrell is a “custom sewer” at Crumpler, an Australian-based bag manufacturer that recently opened two direct market retail stores in lower Manhattan. Though Terrell spends much of her day guiding customers to the right brightly-colored Crumpler case for camera equipment, laptops, or iPods, she’s happiest when people come in wanting something unique. “I have a background in graphic design,” says Terrell, “so I like sitting down with people and coming up with a one-of-a-kind custom bag.”
Terrell takes her customers’ design ideas and works at a SunStar industrial sewing machine to applique the pattern with Cordura (a water-resistant nylon from Dupont) onto rugged, messenger-style Crumpler bags. The process takes her about a week per bag. Crumpler charges $95 for the bag and $50 more for Terrell’s craftsmanship. In this Build-a-Bear age of experienced-based retail and customization, Terrell says the service is so popular that people are showing up from all over the country to work with her. “A lot of customers get a custom bag and then want more,” says Terrell. “We’ve even done bags that match people’s tattoos. It’s just cool.”