Photography by Jessica Turner.

There have been five pivotal handbags in Stephanie Taylor’s life.

When she was 10, she was dying to get a patchwork bag her best friend had. At 12, Taylor’s family took a trip to Italy. Her father told her he would buy any handbag she wanted. Gucci, Fendi, Prada — they went to all of the luxury stores. But Taylor picked a handmade leather Boston bag, the same shape as Louis Vuitton’s Speedy, from a small, independent leather goods store. She still tells her father how much it meant to her that he took the time to find her a bag. He still smiles about it.

“It’s not just brands,” she says. “For me, I truly look at a handbag like it’s art, you know?” The third handbag is the Louis Vuitton bucket bag her husband surprised her with on their Paris honeymoon. It doesn’t get carried often, but it sits in her closet never to be given away.

Then Taylor launched Taylor Bags while working in marketing and business development at a financial firm.

Always on-the-go and meeting with clients, she couldn’t find a bag that looked sharp and was functional. So she sat down one day and sketched out a bag she would love at 29.

“Since I was young, I always was drawn to handbags,” she says. “So it was kind of second nature, I guess, to think I could just maybe start drawing them.”

A friend encouraged her to give it a try. Another friend connected her to a manufacturer in China. She learned how to source materials. She juggled both jobs for a while and then gave birth to her daughter. After realizing she wanted a creative career, Taylor quit her day job.

“I was willing to spend as many hours as it took. I told myself, OK, you must really like it,” she says.

The Taylor Bags featured interchangeable liners, had a plethora of interior pockets and sold at $325 at the highest price point. The business operated for almost five years, and the bags were sold in more than 200 stores, including Stanley Korshak in Uptown. Lakewood boutique Talulah & Hess sold the most inventory.

Then, her son was born.

Her business was profitable, but managing quality control in China from Lakewood was getting harder.

Taylor Bags shuttered, and she spent the next decade as a stay-at-home mom.

She toyed with the idea of launching another handbag company for two years.

“I was frankly nervous,” she says. “Can I do this after all these years? Should I do this? Why am I going to do this? Right now is the time, right?”

Local design firm O&H, run by Lakewood neighbors, helped her create a logo that mimics a crest. An evergreen branch to represent strength. A crown since Stephanie means “crowned one.” A Filipino national flower for her husband of 22 years. A cross for her faith.

Taylor found a manufacturer in New York that uses the perfect Italian leather. She took her entire family to the first meeting so her children could see her pursue her passion. In mid-2020, Stephanie Taylor Bags launched online with one design, the Cameron, named after her daughter. It’s being sold in only one boutique — Talulah & Hess.

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED?

I got a little smarter. So this time round, I wasn’t as naïve. I knew how to negotiate things. I knew how to select leathers and what goes into making the bag quality. I’ve gotten a little tougher because I have more years under the belt now with both businesses and being a mom of two kids. I can take a lot more bumps in the road.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS GO AROUND?

A lot of things are different this time. The way we do business changed. There are a lot more efficient ways to be an entrepreneur and to get started with technology and suppliers being online and all of that. But also being a woman and women supporting women out there in businesses, it’s stronger and better than it’s ever been. There’s just a lot of really cool things happening.

WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL IT TAYLOR BAGS?

It meant a little bit more to put my whole name on it.

WHY THE SHAPE?

I figured out, when I was doing my samples and working on my sketches, if I did the trapeze shape and gave it a little bit more feminine shape on the outsides of the tote that you could fit a laptop quickly. I even had one girl who fit her tennis racket in it and runs to the tennis court after she goes to work.

WHAT IS THE INTERIOR MATERIAL MADE OUT OF?

It’s a nylon-cotton blend. I actually went round and round about that. Originally in my first sample, there was a form of suede on the inside. I went away from that after the third sample was made because I realized, durability-wise, the inside is what takes the biggest beating on any purse. People are going to toss things all over water bottles, you name it, gum, getting loose. When you look inside, it’s usually the typically bright interior, so you can find your things quicker. It also gives it a little bit of a sporty edge on the inside, which was important to me, too, because I wanted it to be fun.

WHY WOULD A CONSUMER PICK YOUR BAG?

I personally do carry a lot of things. And I happen to love tote bags. I see so many women in particular in Dallas who carry large tote bags, but I still see a lack of a lot of function. When you’re spending over $400 for handbags, in my mind, it should feel luxurious. But it should also be able to work for you and not just have to dump everything in it. That’s what I’m most proud of is being able to marry fashion and function together.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PICK ONE BAG AS OPPOSED TO A COLLECTION?

I wanted to make sure this tote was perfect. I produced three different samples of this one tote. And I tested them and showed them to friends and family — what do you like, what do you not like, what’s functional, what’s not — and just kept tweaking it. Third time’s a charm. I finally got to the point where I was like, “Okay, this tote has just about everything I can think of.”