As a child, Brenda Ziegler would spend weekends watching her friend's grandmother sew, but she never realized that she was being prepared for a career as a custom pillow designer.
Then four years ago, Ziegler's daughter Emily needed a makeup bag for cheer practice.
Each cheerleader was given a clear cosmetic case, but Ziegler figured it could be difficult to differentiate which bag belonged to whom. So she sewed vibrant pieces of fabric together and made her first Brenda Kristine bag.
Other moms and daughters noticed and pretty soon were asking for the bags.
Now, when Ziegler isn't working on tailor-made home decor for clients and interior designers, she's busy creating handbags and clutches for Orange County women who want to add fun and a pop of color to their accessories.
Inspired by Hawaii, where she lived for a time, Catalina Island and Santa Barbara, Ziegler embarked on creating a line of colorful and original patterns that are practical but handcrafted with a touch of whimsy.
"It just became popular and that's how it started," Ziegler said as she stood in her Newport Beach home that she shares with her husband, Greg, and three children, who range in age from 13 to 29. "Everywhere we'd go, someone would say something."
And this is how Ziegler, who has designed and sewn slipcovers and pillows for 25 years — and continues to do so — launched her handbag collection.
The Brenda Kristine line with its prints, contrasting zippers and embellishments spread around town, and Ziegler sold out on social media site Instagram. She launched her e-commerce site in 2016 and has since expanded the line to include leather goods, bucket bags and home decor items. Her husband manages the business side of things.
And the products are all handcrafted in a place the family knows well: their garage.
"I love fabric and I love anything tropical, beachy, vintage and fun," Ziegler said as she brushed past a cutting table, three sewing machines, shelved material and canisters filled with threads and beads.
She typically spends eight hours in her workplace conceptualizing and hand-sewing clutches, eyeglass cases, bucket bags and mini wallets. And she has gotten into special-occasion bags and tiny bags for lip gloss and other small makeup items.
Her signature "Conversation Bag" ($32) comes in various themes, including a Laniakea surf scene, a throwback to the mid-century with images of the Bob's Big Boy restaurant logo and Route 66 sign, and a beach motif with palm leaves and hula dancers, to name a few. They are finished with bright lining and a corresponding embellishment attached to the zipper.
Ziegler, who attended Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and is a pattern-maker by trade, said she always wants to add more texture to her designs.
She recently incorporated velvet and lace for her upcoming Valentine's Day selection and also carries a clutch in leather. She'll also take custom orders.
Overnight bags and totes are also on her wish list.
Currently, her products are sold online, in Mermade Designs off Old Newport Boulevard and in a store in Honolulu.
Most of her shoppers select a piece because the fabric evokes a memory for them, whether it's an image of the North Shore in Hawaii or of "Happy Trails."
"My bags can be silly and colorful," Ziegler said. "The point is they're fun."
For more information, call (949) 677-7775 or visit brendakristine.com.