Glamorous, playful, and unique are three words that describe the handcrafted accessories designed by Mary Frances. As I chatted with Mary at her special appearance at Belk Phipps in Atlanta, Georgia, I was blown away with her love of the craft and her customers. “I do not come out to personal appearances very often, but when I do, I love hearing all of the feedback from my fans….It is so interesting to hear the stories about who gave them their handbags, what they wear with it, how they collect the handbags, and so forth. It is always a pleasure seeing a smile on a customer’s face when she talk about my bags. It is always so much fun and so inspiring,” explained Frances during the VIP interview.
Mary Frances, a fun-spirited woman with a keen eye for perfect details, started her home-based business 23 years ago. Since then, she has become an international leader in the world of fashion. From the arms of some of Hollywood’s hottest stars to the everyday woman, Mary Frances’s handmade designs are available in over 3,000 boutiques and department stores worldwide at an affordable price point. “When I am designing handbags, I try to think of things to appeal to everyone. When I hold it [the handbag], I always think about what kind of person would carry that handbag. It is all about creating a variety of pieces so that there is a handbag for anyone and everyone,” stated Mary Frances.
Now, without further ado, I introduce to y’all the magnificent VIP interview with Mary Frances! Come on, y’all! Let’s get fabulous!
VIP: Who or what inspired you to start designing handbags and accessories?
Mary Frances: My inner desire was to do something creative. I wanted to be able to mix work and business with my love of traveling, while getting to be super creative. So, I found this tiny venue of creating embellished jewelry and handbags. The thing I would say that really got me going was, as the business grew, not only was I creating a livelihood for close to a thousand people, but I was also being able to provide a product that was pretty that truly made people feel happy!
VIP: What color best describes you?
Mary Frances:I would have to say green because I love all of the different shades of green…I wear green…my house has a lot of green in it…I just love green!
VIP: What is your favorite era in fashion and why?
Mary Frances: Oh, Gosh…hmm…This is a great question, Abby! I feel like I have switched around a lot, but I would have to say the Great Gatsby–1920s and 30s style–is my favorite. At the very, very beginning of my designs, I was really inspired by the amount of beadwork that went into some of the clothing and bags during that time….Just as people took a lot of time to hand-bead clothing in that era, we do that with Mary Frances bags. In the fashion industry now, so many people want things done quickly, and they are not taking the time to do the hand beadwork. I want to keep that art of hand beading alive with my designs, and there are not many designers out there like myself, willing to go the extra mile to do this kind of labor. Each Mary Frances bag takes about three to four days, minimum, to create because everything is done by hand. I have experimented with different processes trying to make things simpler, but it just does not feel right because I am so trained to want the more detailed work. It honestly bothers me not to put that extra work into a piece!
VIP: How would you describe your personal style?
Mary Frances: I have to be able to move! I would have to say that my personal style can vary from cute and playful to very ornate. I also love to dress boho chic. When it comes down to it, it really depends on what I am doing or where I am going.
VIP: VIP Question. What is one item in your closet you would never toss out and why?
Mary Frances: Hm….What would I not toss out? Hm…I am going to have to go with this really outrageously embellished black velvet jacket that I got overseas. It is all embroidered…it has amazing prints and patterns….and it is completely out there and wild! I do not wear it as much as I used to wear it, but it is so unique I just cannot toss it out! I love it!
It was such a delight getting to interview and hang out with Mary at Belk Phipps in Atlanta! Fabulous bags and a celebrity designer all at Belk…Talk about fashionista heaven!
Stay tuned for upcoming posts where I will feature the fabulous Mary Frances handbag I got autographed by the designer.
Oh baby, I’m from that old school I’ll play it real cool….Love burns you up the most Like it or not But baby, I like it hot…..Oh! hey…you just totally caught me again dancing around my room with my hairbrush microphone singing the song Some Like It Hot by Marilyn Monroe…I just love that movie! I wish I could sing like Marilyn Monroe…
This VIP is proud to present a fabulous interview with an adorable vintage passionista KK Norris! KK is the owner of a precious vintage shop that is located in the heart of Columbus, Mississippi.
During the Columbus Spring Pilgrimage, I visited The Attic and met KK Norris. The atmosphere of this vintage paradise takes you back to bygone days…the oldies playing, the chandeliers, the portrait hanging above the fireplace…
This vintage boutique is not only for the VIP ladies, but it is also for fashionable gentlemen who are looking for a unique selection of bowties, neckties, shirts, and trousers! I cannot wait to give my friend, Chad, the yellow polka dotted bowtie I purchased for him!
Now, I present to you the interview with the adorable KK Norris! Enjoy, my dear friends:)
Tell us a little somethin’ about yourself.
Born and raised in Columbus, MS, I grew up in my grandmother‘s beautiful antebellum home named Rosedale. My favorite pastime as a child was wandering through the many rooms of Rosedale and pillaging through my mom’s and grandmother’s closets. I could barely walk before I traded in my baby shoes for a pair of my mother’s strappy high heels topped off with my grandmother’s mink coat and jewelry….
One of my first paying jobs as a stylist was for Parker Posey (a fellow Southerner) on the movie set of Party Girl.
I returned to Columbus, MS and destiny took over and led me to The Attic. It started out as a modest two-room boutique upstairs from the town’s old movie theater, The Princess Theater. I quickly outgrew The Princess due to my weakness of wanting to give all orphaned vintage pieces a home…As soon as I saw the old yellow Victorian house at 116 3rd Street South, I knew it was meant to be! First of all, I loved the fact that the house is located adjacent to the birthplace of Tennessee Williams; and secondly, I now had plenty of rooms to fill up with all the vintage treasures that seem to find me (and beg me to take them in). My full circle is complete (for now). I am back in a beautiful old home and once again able to play dress up… but this time for a living…and with my friends, family, clients and all lovers of classic, timeless fashion.
What is your favorite fashion era and why?
My favorite era would have to be the 2010s because I get to enjoy every era of fashion these days along with seeing new interpretations of the past. There is next to nothing produced today in the fashion arena that doesn’t draw from the past. So whatever your favorite decade or look is, we now have it. Some days I only want to wear garments from the 1950s, then I will change moods and really be feeling the 20s. Thank goodness, I get to pick and choose from all the decades-thanks to vintage.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
I adore grilling outdoors and trying new recipes, spinning records, reading books, but my new found passion is gardening! After meeting a now, dear friend, Renee, who introduced me into the majestic world of starting plants, food and flowers from seed, I became so hooked on it that customers now know if the sun is out and the store is closed-KK is in the yard. I built a large Goldfish pond that is the center of the backyard parking lot which I turned into a foliage oasis. I joined a garden group online and hooked up with an amazing network of generous seed sharing friends. Honestly, I never thought it possible to get a bigger thrill out of a passion other than vintage clothing!
What is the most exciting part of running a vintage shop?
My heart skips four beats when a customer walks in the door with a styling/clothing issue and walks out in amazement with his/her purchases. I must admit that I am not a shop keeper or a store clerk, so when someone is wanting advice or help and is willing to let me do my work by pulling from the stock…I am in pure heaven! I enjoy decorating the store, changing displays, seeing the “WOW” in new-comers eyes when they walk into the store, and the cute stories about “I remember my Mom wearing these”….but it really makes my job fabulous when a “non-vintage” wearer comes in and lets me work with them.
Where do you get most of the vintage clothing in your shop?
The most unexpected surprise of opening the Attic has been the supply of stock, and how I come about it! I have been so wonderfully blessed not to have to spend days traveling to auctions or estate sales, not to mention thrift sores and garage sales. The word has gotten out around the Southern states that I am a serious vintage dealer, so….they load it up in bulk, and I buy it in bulk! I am tickled to house Southern treasure from the past whether it is a pristine silk party frock or a pair of moth-eaten wool socks. It has been much more personal buying from family members rather than going to estate sales where the stories of the garments on their night out on the town are so rare. I also get to bond with the history, the parties, and the events that the clothing, hats, shoes, and buttons originated-and that makes for a rich experience not only for me as the new owner, but also the potential next owner.
What is your favorite genre of music and why?
The clothing selection of eras and styles are vast here in The Attic, with several rooms filled to the brim with clothing dating from late 1800s to the 1970s. The sunny yellow of this Victorian home sets the mood for the experience, but it’s the music floating in every room that reaches every customer, young and old. A dear friend in Germany, Axel Kustner, who is a bonafide musicologist has supplied the Attic with hours of obscure tunes from the past that are just the right fit. Melodies and voices of the past really compliment these clothes, adding to the atmosphere and I adore getting to also share the history of each artist with customers who are tapping their toes! The Attic just wouldn’t be the same without her music.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I crave reading. Sometimes I get nervous to pick up a new one because I know I won’t sleep until it’s finished. I got hooked on biographies and autobiographies when I lived in the heart of Hollywood, CA being surrounded by the wonderful past of glamour. I still enjoy reading all the books written about a star and cross-referencing the facts. Every book has a different truth, and it can be quite interesting and eye opening realizing that just because it was printed doesn’t mean it really happened.
Here are a few more tidbits KK shared with me. She is truly an inspiration for a small town, Southern VIP like myself!
“The most wonderful aspect of the store, to me, is the community appreciation and participation. When you walk in the door, you’re surrounded by precious relics from our past that have been donated to The Attic for historical preservation and enjoyment. My most ogled items are a donated 1920s glass-beaded, silk chiffon flapper dress, an 1800s white net garden party dress (both from Melody Vydas, a Columbus artist), and the most stunning 1950s blue layered ruffle tulle ball gown with a flowered-bustle (donated by Whitehall, the historic home of Dr. Joe and Carol Boggess).” (To learn more about Whitehall, visit my Columbus Spring Pilgrimage blogs!)
“I was thrilled to recently acquire several amazing party dresses from the mid 1950s that belonged to Valeka Gray, the Southern actress with roles in Love Is a Many Splendored Thing and As the World Turns. Jack and Emily White generously parted with the most awesome 1980s linen suit that Jack wore while teaching in Italy. I couldn’t list all the love that has been given to The Attic over the past 10 years (this August!) by locals who know it will have a very loving home at The Attic.”
“Being featured in USA Today and ABC News this past month as a top 10 Vintage Stores in the USA Worth a Look was indeed a thrill! I have the The Vintage Fashion Guild ( www.vintagefashionguild.org) and Melody Fortier, author of newly-released The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping and owner of the online shop www.tangerineboutique.com to thank for that!”
KK Norris is also a very proud member of the VFG (Vintage Fashion Guild). She wanted to give a warm thank you to the town of Columbus, Mississippi, the donators, and Axel Kustner for all the help they have done to develop The Attic to what it is today!
Wasn’t that a terrific interview with KK Norris! I think everyone should embrace their vintage side!
If you don’t live close to Columbus, Mississippi…or you just can’t find time to go visit The Attic in person…well, I have fabulous news! You can check out The Attic online http://www.atticville.com to discover and purchase your own vintage goodies!
Also, make sure to check out KK’s Etsy shop, follow her on twitter, and like The Attic on facebook!