C.A.S. Handmade

American Made Since 2013
2014 Style Finalist

Cara DesJardins

Providence, Rhode Island
A practical line of Handmade bags from all natural linen and full grain leather. Each bag is one of a kind and handmade start to finish.
Style, Accessories

Tell us about your business.

C.A.S. Handmade is the culmination of a rich family history in textile creations, fifteen years experience in the corporate textile world and a passion for creating. In 2012 I met my husband Jason who encouraged me to follow my dream by starting my own business. April 20th, 2013 is the day it all started, I decided to leave my job and begin my new journey. Together, we created C.A.S. Handmade. It started with a line of custom handbags and pillows made from all natural, hand painted linen. After 6 months of craft shows, farmers markets and a few consignment accounts, I was discovered by Ann Taylor to be a perfect fit for their newest venture, Lou and Grey. Since then, I have developed a Leather product line, launched my website, went wholesale and I currently have over 25 accounts. In only 16 months I couldn't be more fortunate and I look forward to the future of creating and hiring other passionate creators to help me keep up with my demand while keeping my product “Hand Made”.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

Each piece is made in my studio/living space in Providence, RI, which has been in my family for 4 generations. My great grandparents were the original owners of the tall ceilinged, mahogany lined colonial. The middle room of the house, filled with bobbins, bolts and thimbles is where my great grandmother taught her four daughters how to sew, one being my grandmother. My Grandparents raised 6 kids in this house, but always kept the middle room as a dedicated sewing room. Following tradition she taught her four daughters the skilled art of making clothes, hemming dresses and pants and then, creating. As an ode to the meaning of this special space my Aunt Susan named her business, ‘Middle Room Creations’. This is true testament to what a special part of the world this middle room is for my family. Now my husband Jason and I reside, and sew, in this same house. I wanted to take this rich history to the next level by creating C.A.S. Handmade.

What inspires you?

Natural, pure textiles is what truly makes me "happy" and inspires my designs and creations. Walking through the back room of my leather source and going through hide after hide, envisioning designs and bags is how I truly develop my concepts. However, I would not be in a this position if it was not for the inspiration of my family. The four women in my life, mother and three aunts, all sew and have taught me everything I know and supported me 100% in creating my C.A.S. The three men in my life; my brother has always been there for me and has worked countless hours in the marketing of C.A.S, my father is always there to bounce ideas off and helps guide me through this adventure with his wisdom and experience, lastly, my husband who saw my talent and encouraged me to follow my dreams. If it was not for my family there would be no C.A.S. Handmade and they are what really inspires me everyday!!!

What makes your business stand out?

There are many differentiators that separate C.A.S Handmade from others. I create; design and hand make two lines of bags that are practical, and affordable. It is important to me that anyone who wants to have a handmade bag should be able to afford them. Having two major lines attract many different people's styles. My Linen Line are fun, light, hand painted bags that are durable and fashionable. Each bag is hand painted, block printed, lined in linen with Buffalo Leather straps. My Leather Line is also a very practical line made of full grain leather that I hand pick. My several styles, sizes, and mix of colors are sure to appease everyone. I spend a lot of time researching my designs to stay ahead of trends and keeping my bags very fashion forward for all to enjoy.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

The advice I would give to anyone starting a small business is quite simple. If you have ideas and dreams follow them! Don’t give up, try everything, and throw as many ideas out there as possible. There will be a thousand ideas that are thrown against the wall and only a few will stick. But the ones that stick are the gems. It’s a very hard and scary first year. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them, and focus on the big picture, don’t get caught up on little issues that arise.

What does American Made mean to you?

I am very proud to be an American Made artist, I am also extremely grateful to have grown up in such a wonderful community of Providence that has produced such phenomenal artisans. I know first hand what it is like to drop everything to start up a business to create American made products. I live my life by supporting hand made, locally grown, and American made products because it is very important to me and creates sustainability for future generations. Everyone has some creativity in them, but breaking free from the comfort of a steady paycheck and a 9-5 job is easier said then done, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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