Sunday, December 6, 2009

1154 Lill Studio

Jennifer Velarde, creator and founder of 1154 Lill Studio, started her business at a street fair in Chicago. She had several handbags in different styles that she had sewn herself and brought to the fair to sell. Far from what she had expected, the handbags sold out within hours and her booth was empty. People kept asking about the bags and when she would have more. So, she began taking orders and telling people that she would make them in her home and that they could come and get them during the next fair. That was the humble beginning of what is now a large part of the custom accessory world.

Velarde worked out of her home at 1154 Lill Street in Chicago sewing bags and filling orders but as the demand for her bags increased she realized that she would need more space. Jennifer opened her first store, 1154 Lill Studio, in Chicago in 1999. Since then she has opened two others stores. The second location was opened in Boston on Newbury Street in 2004 and the third in Kansas City, MO (her home town). The stores have been a wild success, offering customers the creative experience of designing their own unique handbag.
When you walk into any one of the three store locations, you are greeted with a friendly smile and the question: “Are you familiar with our store?” From there, each customer is lead through the process of designing. There are over 20 different styles to choose from and all styles hang along the tops of the walls in black and gray as model bags. The prices are displayed in red frames above each of the styles and the price includes all of the fabrics.

Once you choose your style, a stylist/ fabric consultant is at your side revealing all of the pieces that the bag you’ve chosen requires in fabric selection. Depending on the bag, there are options such as pockets and trim, interior and exterior, and fabric straps. Once you know what you need, you then head to the fabric wall and begin the process of selection. There are over 200 fabric swatches to choose from and the fabrics are constantly rotating – new ones come in and old ones filter out. The idea behind this is that everyone will have a unique bag with a combination that only they came up with.

The staff is always friendly and willing to help with final decisions along with mixing and matching fabrics with you. Once you are done, your order is entered into a computer system and printed out with pictures of the fabrics that you chose. Custom orders take three weeks to create and they are all hand sewn in the 1154 Lill Studio Production Office in Chicago. Bags can be picked up at the store or shipped to you for $9 if you are from out of town.

Though customizing is the main idea of the store, the company recognizes that not everyone may have the time to do it. For those, there are ready-made bags that fill the store in beautiful combinations selected by the store stylists. These ready-made bags are perfect for gifts and/or instant gratification for those that just can’t stand to wait the three weeks.

The bags make beautiful gifts and range in price from $30-$210. Sizes go from small change purses and make-up bags to large duffle sizes and weekend bags. Some of the mid-sized bags are reversible and become a kind of 2 for 1 deal. Gift certificates are available for purchase in any dollar amount and can be redeemed both in stores and online (plus, they never expire).
All bags can be customized online. The company website in interactive so you can click on your style and then the fabrics and it puts them on the bag for you – a great help in visualizing what your bag would look like.

1154 Lill Studio is a fantastic and creative experience that yields a beautiful product that one can wear with confidence and pride. Each handbag is a reflection of the customer’s personality and because of that it is a truly unique experience. Check out for more details and store locations.

Happy customizing!

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