A quality high-end handbag is a diamond in the rough; but a bomb handbag line, completely owned and operated by a black woman, is a gold mine. Love Cortnie is a collection of finely crafted, genuine leather bags designed and handmade by Cortnie Elizabeth — a savvy black business woman who took her love for fashion into her own hands by launching her design label in 2010. Just a week after learning how to sew from her grandmother, Cortnie opened an online shop where she featured 3 bag designs that all encompassed what she defined as the perfect clutch; unique, large in size and lined with something fun. Since then she has created over 200 unique designs, amassing a loyal following of customers who share her love for a one-of-a-kind handbag.
Cortnie is much more than a fashion designer — she is a living testament to what can happen when passion and an entrepreneurial spirit come together. Strut Glam Lane enjoyed the amazing opportunity to interview Cortnie Elizabeth about her label, balancing her business with motherhood, and what’s in store for the future of Love Cortnie.
1. How did you initially get into designing and creating your bags?
I always wanted to learn how to sew and I always wanted my grandmother to be the one to teach me. One Summer I was in between jobs and figured there was no better time.
While playing around with scraps of fabric on my grandmother’s sewing machine (which she ended up giving to me), I mentioned how it would be cool to make a clutch.
She was more than happy to teach me. I had the idea to make them available for purchase. Only a couple of options would be available. It was something I was just going to do for fun. I asked my blog readers about the idea and got such encouraging feedback. I launched my Etsy shop a week later and that was the start of my brand. You can read the full story on the About page at Lovecortnie.com.
2. When did you initially start your brand and what was the first bag you ever designed?
I started my brand in September 2010 in my grandmother’s kitchen without even knowing it. The first bag I made was a simple design. Made from quilted fabric. The 3 that I first made available were similar. All had prints on the outside lined with something fun on the inside.
3. Are you a full time designer or part time? If part time, how do you find the balance between life as a mother, entrepreneur, and a job? If you are full time, when did you decide to fully dedicate your career to designing?
I run Love Cortnie full time and have for about the last 4+ years. Now that I’m a mom to a 4 month old it has definitely been tough to balance.
I truly love what I do and the freedom it gives me to do what I want.
When baby sleeps is when I try to get work done. That can be pretty sporadic, but she does let me work for short periods of time if she’s awake. She’s intrigued by everything now, so the smallest thing will keep her entertained for a little while.
4. How would you describe the signature aesthetic of your bags?
I have my basic pieces that are a range in size. But outside of that, I try to create things that are unique and fun to carry; Pieces you wouldn’t find in your average mall or online shop.
5. Do you have a team or are you currently running your operations alone? How do you source your materials and other resources?
I do everything by myself at the moment. Buying, advertising, packaging & shipping, etc. In terms of sourcing materials, I try to shop with small businesses when I can. A lot is done online, but there are a few local stores that I’ll shop often.
6. How much do you value representation for black women in the fashion industry and as you continue to find success, how will you make this a priority in your own career?
I just want to continue to have fun with my brand while still being professional. By providing awesome customer service & quality products, I hope that I will represent black women in the industry well.
7. Name one black fashionista that you would love to see rocking your bags.
Beyonce, of course! Oprah would be amazing too.
8. What are your future plans for your line and what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
I’ve been doing everything by myself for so long, but it’s time to start looking into manufacturers. So hopefully I’ll be able to get a booth at one of the upcoming MAGIC tradeshows in Vegas.
9. Is there any element of your cultural or ethnic heritage that inspires your designs?
Honestly, I’m inspired by many things. It can be something I saw online or on tv, a color combination, an outfit, trends (new & old), being outside, traveling, etc. Inspiration is everywhere and comes in many forms.
Follow Cortnie on social media!