Business

The height of fashion on women's arms

Creating wearable art is Peggy Maracich’s specialty.  - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Creating wearable art is Peggy Maracich’s specialty.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Peggy Maracich crafts custom handbags from unique cloths and trinkets.

You’ve got to hand it to Peggy Maracich.

She knows how to bag clients without really trying.

Maracich’s handmade purses have captured the attention of island women, who buy them four and five at a time as gifts and for themselves. They spot the bags – which range from baguettes to totes – in the aisles of Town and Country and on the ferry, and are not shy about approaching strangers to ask, “Is that a Peggy purse? I have one, too.”

“People are constantly stopping my sister and my husband asking, ‘How do I get one?’” Maracich said.

She calls her home-based business “PurseOnify,” a moniker thought up by a friend who said her purse is “me personified.”

A year ago, all of Maracich’s friends and her mother were having big birthdays. She wanted to give them something special, and decided to make them handbags.

Then somebody suggested she sell them.

Staying at home with three children under the age of 8 at that time, Maracich was interested in making a little money as long as it fit into her schedule. With some deft juggling and a positive attitude, she is able to handle home duties, design and make purses and host open house parties at which she sells her goods.

Most of the open houses are held in her homey 1902 Seabold farmhouse, where stacks of fabrics, trims and handles take pride of place in the front room.

A recent event had women streaming in for five hours, enraptured by the exquisite silk brocades, soft suedes, velvets and jacquards. Choosing fabric and coordinating trim from an array of beaded, fuzzy and faux-fur strips and a choice of handles turned the event into a relaxed, friendly party.

Maracich made helpful suggestions and offered a collection of finished bags for sale and inspiration. She wrote 20 orders that day.

Maracich started trimming her purses before that style came into vogue, adding such embellishments as a brooch she bought in Paris and jewelry her late grandmother gave her, a piece of which went onto a bag for an aunt.

When clients saw those bags, they began bringing their own treasured pieces of jewelry, scarves and fabric for Maracich to use.

Initially, it was hard for Maracich to part with her purses, having put a bit of herself into each one. Once women started adding their own materials, the process became easier.

Any way it’s done, the outcome is a unique accessory.

“You can’t run down to the store and buy one,” said Maracich, who has turned down offers by local shops interested in selling her bags and eschews the idea of opening her own place. “(The parties) are so fun for these women.”

“I learned to sew when I was in the seventh grade, when you had to take home-ec,” she said. “My Grandma had always sewn. It was a cool bond between us. I lined jackets and made skirts when I wanted something new to wear. I never went the design route. I guess I never thought of it as a career.”

Born and bred in Southern California, Maracich entered the hotel business. She worked the front desk at the five-star Hotel Bel-Air and the Peninsula Beverly Hills, which she helped open, a feather in her professional cap.

She had friendly chats with Oprah Winfrey, attended three Academy Awards ceremonies and worked long hours.

She thought she’d never leave California, until she met Dan Maracich, a carpenter. They relocated to Seattle, where she worked for the Electra and Edgewater hotels.

Eleven years ago, they bought a Bainbridge house with enough land for a carpenter’s shop. The family who subdivided their property and sold the Maracichs their farmhouse “have embraced us,” she said. “This house has good karma.”

Maracich sews purses in her home, whenever she finds the time. She still doesn’t call herself artistic, saying, “I can’t draw to save my life.”

Her bags are priced from $60; magnetic closures, zippers and pockets are extra, starting at $5. Gift certificates are available and Maracich does do in-home parties.

Fabric choices change by the season and Maracich doesn’t buy in bulk, so once a fabric – such as the faux giraffe – or trim is gone, it may not come back.

Because word on the street is so strong, Maracich has been more in the manufacture mode than the creative mode, she said.

“It’s such a fabulous problem to have. I have five different designs in my head right now,” she said.

Although it makes her ner­vous, she recently started having an assistant “do the simple piecework, like linings, so I can take more orders and do more designs.”

Each bag takes Maracich about three weeks to complete. She tried to do it faster, but can’t, she said, adding, “I have to do it right.” And the creativity keeps flowing.

“I designed a skirt the other day. I look at a piece of fabric and I see it in my head,” she said. “Things are coming out of me I never felt before. You just know when it’s right. I’m like Emeril. Bam!”

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Bag lady

Contact Peggy Maracich at 780-5582 or email purseonify@aol.com.

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