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July 2008
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Eco-Friendly Bags the Potato Sacks of the Rich and Famous

Angus and Tara Beavers sailed through the Caribbean for eight months on a shabby boat named Dirty Diapers.  Everywhere they went throughout the islands they saw locals carrying durable burlap bags that were used to sell fruits, vegetables and feed in the local markets.  The Beavers also found the bags to be quite useful on the boat so to increase their versatility, Tara tore the bags apart, washed the burlap thoroughly so it stopped shedding fibers and re-sewed it into more convenient sizes, adding swatches of colorful cotton lining and sturdy handles.  From this experience was born the Beavers’ company, WeBe Bags, and a purse whose name evokes the dialects of the Caribbean islands.

Wealthy, environmentally conscious travelers in the area took notice, and eventually the Beavers’ creation became the official bag of the Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands.  “You have to have a certain sense of self-assurance to go around with a big bag that says ‘chicken feed’ on it,” said Angus. “I mean, their other bag might be Prada.”

Relying on Third World materials and labor from local housewives, the Beavers’ Utah purse company now makes the bags from the Caribbean market sacks that had inspired them, and the Beavers have started selling their products for $30 to $100 at F. Marks Collectibles, the Park Silly Sunday Market and Dolly’s Bookstore.  WeBe Bags had developed a small local following, but last January, during the Sundance Film Festival, the totes began to amass international attention. 

“Sundance was huge for us,” said Angus.  Rapper 50 Cent ordered 50 purses – all with 50 cents printed somewhere on the burlap – for a party he threw during the festival. Colin Firth’s wife, who owns an eco-friendly department store, reportedly bought a handful. Jude Law and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have since been spotted with the totes.  Later, the American Pavilion at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival named the purse its official bag, leading online fashion service Shefinds.com to dub WeBe Bags “potato sacks of the rich and famous.” 

“People really recognize them now,” said Felece Marks, founder of F. Marks Collectibles, adding that the bags do “very, very well” in her store.  Before long, 350 boutiques nationwide were carrying the bags, including celebrity darling clothing stores Fred Segal and Intuition. WeBe Bags grew beyond Tara’s sewing abilities. 

“I’m an awful seamstress,” she said. But the couple met a woman at day care with experience as a seamstress and began paying her to sew a few dozen bags per week. And now they actively recruit stay-at-home mothers in Utah for WeBe Bags.  Read more about WeBe Bags at the Salt Lake Tribune.

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Author, Instructor & Pattern Designer

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