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Michelle Vale ’97

Keeping Fashion Local in NYC

Michelle Vale, who graduated with a degree in human development and family studies, became a handbag designer to satisfy her creative side. Vale is ahead of the curve when it comes to style, and Michelle Vale handbags embody that same fashion-forward idea.

In 2007, Lucky magazine recognized Vale’s handbag designs in a Best New Designer editorial. With a handbag featured in a fashion magazine and her name in the public eye, Vale launched her company, established a Web site, and got her sample handbags into production.

Shortly after the company was established, an economic recession hit. The company survived by expanding only when the business was ready. “We have focused on growing organically and trying to work in a socially responsible way,” says Vale. Today, Michelle Vale handbags are available through vendors nationwide and have been spotted on the arm of fashion icons like Sarah Jessica Parker.  

All Michelle Vale handbags are made in New York City. Whenever possible, the materials used in her designs are manufactured locally. Vale works with other designers and Save the Garment Center trade association, to keep production in the Garment Center of New York City, where retail businesses are slowly taking over what was formerly a manufacturing district.

“We are working hard to educate our customers on the importance of local manufacturing,” says Vale. “If we do not start to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., we are headed for much bigger issues. New York is the only city in the world where you can have a pattern created, cut, and sewn all within a few blocks.”

Out of 800 worldwide competitors, Vale was recently honored with the Independent Handbag Designer Award: “The most rewarding thing about being a designer is seeing people appreciate your designs. The road as a designer is far from easy, and this award validated all the hard work I have put forward.”

To learn more about Vale’s line of handbags and customized removable hardware (sold separately), go to michellevale.com

—Robin Deal

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