By Kristi Valentini, Milkshake Editor
I doubt my grandpa would ever have imagined that the Marine-issued duffel bag he slugged around the Pacific islands during World War II would 70 years later carry lipgloss, change and a cell phone and hang from the arm of an indie diva. But Alice Saunders could.
When she saw a World War II era canvas duffel bag at one of the flea markets she scoured every Sunday, something clicked. "I realized there could be a practical use for all the beautiful old canvas that I would come across. I was inspired by the idea of turning something old and forgotten into a practical object that I could use every day," explains Saunders, the brain and crafter behind Forestbound's collection of purses, bags and wallets that Milkshake is pining after.
Saunders has a special affinity for fabric with a past. Before she started her business giving new life to salvaged textiles, she was attending Northeastern University studying history, with a focus on World War II and Vietnam era politics. By the way her bags fly out of her online store, it's obvious that her nostalgia is shared. But it's not just yearning for bygone times that make these bags an instant classic. Each bag is one of kind and crafted with her New Englander's rugged sense of fashion and fastidious attention to detail.
"I dedicate so much time to the materials I work with -- uncovering them from flea markets and basements, taking apart seams and hand-washing the material, carefully laying pieces out to see how they would work as a bag. Each small detail in every single bag has been taken into consideration a handful of times," shares Saunders.
Her intense work ethic is paying off. Saunders sold her first bag on Etsy in 2008. She kept sewing away and making more until she just couldn't keep up with the demand. That's when she realized that it was time to make Forestbound a full-time pursuit. Self-taught and disciplined, Saunders now works out of home workshop with her new pup Maisey by her side. When she's not in her workshop or out rummaging for left-behind fabrics, she's looking for a little slice of forest to call her own.
"I grew up in New Hampshire and have spent much of my life in the countryside. I hope to get back there someday. I'm currently on the hunt for land in Vermont so I can start building a little cabin and creating more of a quiet, rural life. The name Forestbound just formed out my feelings about that," says Saunders.
Despite Forestbound's growing popularity and designing a line for the chic boheme retailer Anthropologie, Saunders remains grounded. "I've never tried to get too far ahead of myself with my business," she states and shrugs her shoulder tattooed with the sentiment "Each and Every Day."
Most of her days now are spent dreaming up new collections made from 100-year-old grain sacks or 1950s canvas advertisements, or piecing bits of found fabric together just so. She can't help herself -- re-making history is addictive.
If you too want to carry a charming piece of yesterday on your arm, you can check out Saunders latest works at Forestbound.com.