She is quirky, talented and always ready for a challenge. Meet Nicole Pearson, a Durban North leatherworks designer who hand-makes custom, once-off bags in every size, shape and style imaginable.
When Nicole Pearson left her fast-paced, high-stress corporate job and took some time off in Thailand to clear her head, she knew her next career move would be to follow her true love – design. “I have always been into design. As a child I used to draw wedding dresses and make things out of polystyrene packaging . . . or anything else I could find around the house,” says the 34-year-old creative who studied media design and technology.
A little leather bangle gift from her boyfriend at the time sparked the beginning of her unique leather business seven years ago. “I remember looking at the engraved leather bangle and thinking, ‘I am going to make a business out of this’. I started making and selling them at markets in July 2013. I couldn’t believe it, but people bought them and they sold out in no time!”
The bangle business became known as Pixie Custom Leatherworks and it did not take long before Nicole felt the urge to do more. “I felt a pull to get a sewing machine. I had never used one, but I knew I needed it. Knowing nothing about sewing machines, I went out and found an industrial machine that could sew leather. It was massive! I had to phone my dad to fetch it because it didn’t fit into my car!” Once she got the machine home, Nicole started experimenting with locally-sourced leather and different types of fabric. “I taught myself how to make a bag. I wanted to perfect the bag before I did anything else. It took some time, but one day I got it right. When I felt it was good enough, I put it up on Instagram and someone bought it!”
Now Nicole makes one custom-design bag after the next, ranging from cute little sling bags complete with cardholder slots and an internal keyring to make-up bags, totes, weekenders, backpacks and even polo racquet carrier bags. “Making my own designs and seeing them come to life is such a freeing feeling. I’m still a ‘small fry’, but I hope to one day move my little business out of my dad’s garage and into a mini factory – with aircon and no mosquitoes,” laughs Nicole. “The dream is to have six or seven sewing machines and employ a couple of people to work with me. I would love to teach the trade of sewing and empower people to start their own little business and create a ‘design-a-bag’ space where people can choose the leather colour, design, style and pattern that they like and we make it.” Nicole is hoping to launch an online ‘design-a-bag’ website soon, so keep an eye out for this on social media!
Text: Elana Wagner