Ex-Bartlett resident designs handmade purses and accessories

Former Bartlett resident Patti Yancey founded her growing handbag and accessories business, Kindred Spirit Style, in her Oakland home some four years ago, after losing her job as the national sales director for a well-known fashion company.

Her handmade items and fabric choices are unique, and she is inspired by things that aren’t necessarily meant to go together.

“After I lost my job, I began playing with designs even though I don’t have a design background. Looking back, I have two older sisters and we shared clothes. I would mix things up to make a cute outfit. My brain has never worked normally,” she said.

Many of her creations feature end pieces and sample squares, recycling fabrics to fashion a one-of-a-kind bag. Today, her product line has 14 independent sales representatives selling wholesale across the South, and her handbags can be found in more than 50 independent retail shops, as well as online. Prices range from $29 for a scarf/fashion wrap to $130 for a messenger bag/backpack.

With her business expanding, Yancey made the decision to close her flagship shop in Cooper Young to move back to her home base and a larger location in Oakland.

“We needed a larger space for the Kindred Spirit Style wholesale business and the retail spot,” she said. “In the retail store we sell the handmade bags and accessories as well as other gifts, along with fabulous linen and knit clothing.”

She added, “We are looking for crafty people wanting to teach fun and creative projects. We are going to have candle and soap-making classes, as well as design-your-own-bag events.”

Her new store at 7040 U.S. 64 in Oakland recently celebrated its grand opening. “The grand opening was great. We had a big turnout and couldn’t have fit three more people in the door,” Yancey said. “Oakland is a small community, but we’ve sold very well.”

Her philosophy is “freedom, fellowship and fearless living.” She stressed, “I live that way, and it is my desire to help other women embrace that lifestyle, too.”

Kindred Spirit Style currently employs 20 seamstresses sewing in their homes, on their own time frames, using Yancey’s fabrics, patterns and designs. All of her products are handcrafted and made in the U.S.

“I want my employees to be independent, to express their creativity, and to be excited about their art,” Yancey said. “We are like family.”

Donnia Wheatley started sewing for Kindred Spirit Style after losing her job as the human resources director for the Blockbuster chain of video rental stores throughout the Southeast when the company filed for bankruptcy.

The Kindred Spirit Style experience has been wonderful, Wheatley said. “I had been sewing for years. I get the money I need and get to do what I truly love to do.”

She described the work as a collaborative process. “I can do whatever I want and work around my schedule. I am paid by the piece, but I can negotiate. Patti is very honest. I don’t feel like I’m working for her.”

Wheatley gave the example of pillows she made for her daughter, which she photographed and sent to Yancey. Now they are selling in the store. “I was in the store recently and watched someone buy one of my pillows,” Wheatley said. “It feels good to have someone say, ‘I love this.’”

And Kindred Spirit Style customers really do love the products, as evidenced by the feedback on the company’s online store website and Facebook page.

“I am in love with these purses. … I ordered the backpack messenger a few weeks ago, and will be back for more,” Kristy Bullion said.

“’Kaleidoscope’ would be the word I would use to describe your beautiful purses,” said Tanya M.

In addition to her new retail store, Yancey said she is working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to make her purses and clutch wallets available in the hospital’s gift shop and holiday gift guide as a fundraising vehicle for the medical facility.

“I get excited about writing checks to pay my employees, and I love helping other people,” Yancey said.

For additional information about Kindred Spirit Style, visit the company’s website at www.kindredspiritstyle.com, find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KindredSpiritStyle, or call the Oakland store at (901) 235-6945.

Written by Linda Cooper, special to the Express.