Thirty Seven West is very pleased to introduce its interview with Christine Guanipa, who is the owner and designer of Little Man Originals. We have supplied Custom Woven Clothing Labels to Little Man Originals since 2005. Christine Guanipa, owner and designer of Little Man Originals, uses her designs to combine the beauty and elegance of 1950’s fashion with the versatility required in today’s world. Since 2002, this Massachusetts-based handbag designer has produced multiple limited production bags, perfect for any occasion. Family owned and operated, Little Man Originals has made its mark by being available in over 200 boutiques and museums as well as expanding online through Etsy. Offering clutches, diaper bags, and everything in-between, Little Man truly is an uncommon original.
Thirty Seven West: How long has your family business been around?
Christine: 8 Years
Thirty Seven West: What has it meant for your business to have a selling outlet like Etsy available to reach a wide market of consumers who share some of your handmade ideals?
Christine: Little Man Products are mostly made available to the wholesale market selling in over 200 select boutiques and museums throughout the US. Selling retail through Etsy is a new experience for Little Man and we have yet to further continue our exploration of the possibilities available through that market.
Thirty Seven West: What is the benefit of producing limited production items, versus ongoing items in your collection?
Christine: We have found that limited production pieces are more desirable and special. Owning one of a hundred is far more valuable than one of millions and speaks to the individuality and uniqueness of our customer.
Thirty Seven West: Do you think that you’ll ever expand your collection to include items for a male consumer market? Products like messenger bags, laptop cases, etc, geared towards men?
Christine: At this time we design our collection with women in mind, staying true to our motto “Every Woman Needs A Little Man”; however, we have found more and more male customers gravitating towards certain products that we have created with a more simplistic design and unisex fabrics. This has already begun to broaden our market thus far.
Thirty Seven West: It seems like nowadays, everyone is trying to accommodate the centrality that our electronic gadgets demand in our lives. With iPad and iPhone cases, and purses and bags built with special pockets for iPods and oversized cell phones—do you feel like you will venture more into that area of products in the future (Perhaps making products specifically for an iPhone, etc)?
Christine: We try to stay current with the needs that women have to stow and store. Products like our “Tiny Tim”, “Little Lad”, and “Charlie Change” already point in that direction functioning as fashionable accessories that hold items such as ipods, cameras, and cell phones. We already provide multiple pockets in most of our larger bags for these items as well. A lap-top case is currently in the works, to be debuted in our 2011 collection.
Thirty Seven West: How do you compete in a market where so many independent designers/manufacturers and also giant, corporate manufacturers are constantly flooding the market with new bags?
Christine: We try to stay focused on what Little Man has been called to; to create practical, functional handbags and accessories that have a timeless look with a contemporary, fashion forward slant. We consistently create a solidly constructed product that is a limited production and is made in America. We believe our customers value this component of our company and product.
Thirty Seven West: How do you stay unique and still reach your consumers?
Christine: Vintage values, personal attention to our customers, and every item that leaves our studio.
Thirty Seven West: Where do you find your inspiration for new bags?
Christine: From old bags! I look to the successes of the vintage handbags and their makers and really look at what it is that draws me to them. Our designs reflect the bags we have admired from the past. We especially take our inspiration from the bags of the 1950s and add a modern element, while still keeping with the values of quality craftsmanship, inventiveness, simplicity, and classic style.
Thirty Seven West: How often do you try to introduce new products to your collection line?
Christine: We try to add at least one new bag or accessory every year.
Thirty Seven West: Can you tell us about two of your biggest triumphs during your years in business? (They can be anything meaningful and “big” to you)
Christine: One quote that resonates with me is, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” This saying always brings me back to my first sale to a store. It was only $60 but I was so happy, and it has encouraged me to continue doing what I love because someone else will love it too!
A more recent “triumph” was at the JFK Presidential Museum, where Little Man is on exhibit in every style and shape! It is a proud moment for Little Man, being “Made in America”, and having the privilege of being shown in a place that memorializes one of the most historical families in American History.