Insecure or confident and cultured -- bags reflect your personality

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Handbags say a lot about a woman and probably make a bigger statement than most people realize.

If you see a woman with a large canvas bag, for instance, you picture a woman who feels a need to carry everything under the sun with her maybe a bit insecure and unorganized.

A small handbag, on the other hand, depicts a confident woman, a no-nonsense type who gets straight to the point.

The women who don the backpack style are those who want their hands free to carry all the stuff she wouldnt dare carry in a canvas bag. See, this makes her look like a busy but not cluttered woman.

And then you have the creative women the ones who carry unique-styled bags that make a statement about her.

Enter designer Mary Frances.

No doubt her handbags are one-of-a-kind. Her talent for cleverly meshing beads, fabric and buttons defines the look women want something different from the rest, a bag that separates her from those worn by other women.

They are styles born from her travels around the world; inspirations from other cultures. And they are purses worn by Jennifer Aniston, Paris Hilton and Teri Hatcher.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Mary, a woman whose business started while moonlighting as a commercial real estate agent, which became so successful it made it onto Inc. magazines annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America (a three-year growth rate of 505 percent).

Her energy and sense of humor are contagious while her talent and knowledge of the handbag business effortlessly weave throughout a conversation. She is business savvy and creative certainly as unique as her bags.

Actresses have been seen with your bag on their arm. Did you give them the bags?

Paris Hilton bought one of my bags at a boutique and they took a picture of her. Most have bought them but some received my purse in a gift bag.

Have any celebrities asked you to design a bag for them?

No, but others have asked me. Ive done it for a winery but Im pretty busy with what I do.

How many styles did you create last year?

About 250 in one year. Im known for creating a lot of newness and having something fresh for the customer. I think thats why we have so many collectors; people have started to collect my bags.

Do you design all your bags?

I do, but now I have a bit of collaboration with different people.

When attending a wedding, do you give your bags as a gift?

Absolutely! Its the fringe benefit of being my friend you get a bag!

While shopping, do you look at bags women are wearing and think, 'My bag would look better with that outfit?'

Depends on the context and if Im in work mode. I definitely match up my bags to people at any given time. I have about 150 styles on the line and all vary with personality. You will find something you connect with if you see my bags.

Have you ever stood by your bags and watched people looking at them?

Yes. I was at Macys doing a personal appearance and I heard the raw wood conversation. I love it! Its so positive that it fuels me. And if its not positive, I turn it around. Several years ago, I had smaller bags in my line and people would suggest to make a bigger bag. I resisted. Now I have bigger bags and its going well. So I listen to them.

Do you carry other bags other than your own?

Heck no! It would be embarrassing if people asked me about my bag and it wasnt my own.

How many bags do you sell a year?

I would say roughly 60,000.

Are your bags designed for a certain age group?

I used to say yes but its changed with the advent of the larger bag. Now its for every age group, from people in their 20s to 80s.

How many bags have you designed from day one?

I dont know, thousands? I keep one of every new technique, though.

How popular have bags become?

Theyre no longer a functional item but a part of your wardrobe, to offset it. If you are someone who likes to dress in simple clothes, you can pull it together with a great bag. You can also hit the trend with bags instead of trendy clothes. And women have gotten back to dressing up.

What does a bag say about a woman?

I think it says a lot about her lifestyle. I think it goes back to dressing up and how much you want to pull it together or how much on the run you are. Youre putting it out there with personality, especially if you have a Mary Frances bag. You get that vibe of wanting to ask where you purchased that bag.

Should bags match your shoes?

I think they should coordinate but not matchmatch. They should blend and be harmonious.

Whats the secret to being so successful?

Its truly loving what you do, which is a clichŽ but its true. You have to have a passion to wake up and do that job. I love the creative side of this and the business and I feel grateful for that.