Moop makes simple, stylish, and durable bags for men and women. Founder Wendy Downs designs, sews, photographs, and models every bag out of her beautiful Pittsburgh studio. We talked to Wendy about designing bags and running an independent business. She even showed us what’s in her own Moop bag.
Moop started in early 2007 in a converted mill building in western Massachusetts. We had a fantastic live/work space at the base of Mt. Tom with a lazy pond to gaze at out the window. Both my husband and I are artists and makers. We have a young daughter and wanted a space that could double as our home and studio. So Moop began quite literally in my living room! We've since relocated to Pittsburgh, Pa. The business has grown too large to be in our home—I now have a storefront studio space and three assistants.
Every single Moop bag is made, start to finish, in our Pittsburgh studio. Fabric comes in on large bolts and goes out as finished bags. We personally correspond with each and every customer. We like that our customers get to interact directly with us—it's not very often you get to exchange emails with the person who not only designed your bag, but made, photographed, modeled, packed and shipped it, too! Plus, we build bags for everyday life. We like thoughtfully designed pockets, wearable colors, durable construction and water-resistant fabrics. Moop bags are meant to be used.
Each design has been built from the one prior. We get better at what we do with each bag we produce. I learn new ways of constructing things from trying to find more efficient ways of making our bags (our bags are very labor intensive) this often leads to new designs. But really, our best selling bags have all come from me trying to make something else, something going wrong and ending up with something other than what I set out to do. It's a very organic process.
There are many facets to sustainability. A goal that we hold is to continue to expand our organic canvas offerings. While this is a very important goal for us, we don't feel it's the most significant contribution that we make to sustainability. Moop began as an extension of my studio practice as an artist and became a business from this context. As we have grown from the labor of one (me) to our current small small team, we've been determined to maintain our ideals of production and we work very hard to provide a very positive, supportive, friendly and flexible workplace for our employees. We are committed (probably to a fault) to keeping the entire process of production within our studio—our fabric arrives to us on big bolts, and from there it's hand-cut, pressed, marked for stitching, stitched, threads carefully trimmed, inspected, packed with care and shipped to each individual customer. We don't offer wholesale and work to have a very personal experience with each customer throughout the process, beginning with them making the purchase, all the way to the receipt of their bag. Often our correspondence doesn't end here—we have many customers who remain in contact with us, giving us updates on their bags and how they've been used and how much they love them! We feel this is the key element in establishing a sustainable small business—relationships that extend beyond the mere purchase of a product, but reach to the consumer having an insight into the production of the goods they're purchasing and a relationship with the person that made it.
I'm currently carrying a bag from our newest line: The Waxed Canvas Letter Bag in brown. Inside, I always have my Macbook, phone and my Moop Letter Clutch (which acts as my wallet—it's full of credit cards and tons of receipts). Everything else depends on what I've been doing. It's cold out now so I always have my mittens and chapstick. We just moved into a new house and have been slowly decorating and buying furniture, so I've been carrying a tape measure around and measuring everything before I buy it (so nerdy!). I'm very forgetful and always have a small notebook and pen to write down ideas or things I hear about that I want to look up later.