Sweetiepurse is a designer handbag company that helps to fund Grupesdac, an organization that helps improve the lives of some of the world's most impoverished Mexican citizens. The purses are luxury handbags made from clean, reinforced recycled candy wrappers. Each handcrafted purse not only provides a chance for self-sufficiency and the ability to earn wages for many Mexican citizens, but helps Grupesdac in its mission to provide life-changing education and self-development programs.
Meet Stan and Elaine Cohen, Sweetiepurse Founders
The names behind Sweetiepurse are Stan and Elaine Cohen, a spirited, compassionate couple originally from London, England, who currently reside in the Palm Beach area. With Elaine's keen fashion sense and Stan's background in lingerie manufacturing, the couple is thrilled to use their skills for what they feel is not only an exciting, original product line, but one that also touches the lives of others in an important way.
LoveToKnow (LTK): Dear Stan and Elaine, please tell us a bit about your backgrounds. What prompted you to found Sweetiepurse?
Stan and Elaine Cohen (S&E): We were first introduced to candy wrapper purses by a Mexican friend of ours who was doing a jewelry party at our house. She explained that her Mother ran a charity in Mexico that helped some of the most impoverished people in the world, and the women who it supported made the purses. We instantly loved the product and the charitable element to it. A flight to Mexico City soon ensued, and we were introduced to Grupedsac.
LTK: Can you explain how Sweetiepurse ties in with Grupesdac?
S&E: This is an amazing organization that works tirelessly to help improve the lives of these people in an Eco way. They first go into a village and teach the people to build a water cistern. This ensures the villagers have at least one of life's basic needs, water. They then build a toilet and use the waste products for fertilizer and collect methane gas. Farming is how these people try to survive. Now they have water and natural fertilizer, Grupedsac teaches farming in an Eco way. This involves putting back into to ground rather than just taking out.
Elaine and I were really touched to see this process and how it changed the lives of those who struggled to survive. We were also intrigued to see how these women were trained to make the candy wrapper purses from waste materials. The charity pays the women to make the product, then sells these items at a profit to pay its operating costs. Same Eco concept, you farm and put back.
Up to fifty percent of the proceeds of each Sweetiepurse handbag goes directly to charity.
A concept they believed in from the beginning, Stan and Elaine's venture has been successful, form its nostalgic name to its U.S. expansion. After being introduced to the purses and Grupesdac, Elaine and Stan quickly brought in their expertise and enthusiasm:
S&E: The name Sweetiepurse was derived from "Sweet," the English name for a candy. My [Stan's] production and design background allowed me to help them with the designing process, and Elaine,who is a real fashion Queen, advised on styles and colors. We were able to transform a simple hand made item into a high quality fashion product that everybody loves.
The variety of wrappers was expanded as we supplemented those collected by the women and schools with wrappers donated by food and drink manufacturers. Now we had a huge base from which to work. We agreed to market these unique products in the U.S. and have been enjoying much success with our endeavor.
LTK: The handbags sold by Sweetiepurse are high-quality designer purses. What details make the handbags a luxury item? What can you tell us about the uniqueness and originality of each purse?
S&E: Each purse is unique as they are hand made from individual wrappers. The wrappers are first cut to size,then an inner paper is cut to give bulk and strength. These two are then folded together and then formed into a chain. The chains are then connected and sewn together. The zipper is then attached and finally the strap or handle. The whole is a very slow process,taking anything from one to five days to produce.
LTK: There are so many gorgeous designs your company sells. Are there any particular styles or designs that rank the highest in terms of popularity?
S&E: The most popular color is Tuti Fruti, a multi-colored combination of wrappers; we also have an endless choice of other colors, from solids to sequences.
LTK: In addition to handbags, Sweetiepurse also currently sells belts. Are more accessory items expected in the future?
S&E: Outside of purses,coiners and market bags, we have developed belts, headbands, bracelets, keychains, ipod holders, and cellphone holders.
LTK: Are there any particular age ranges that Sweetiepurse is geared towards?
S&E: The amazing thing that we discovered when marketing the product was the universal appeal. They are loved by eight and eighty-eight year olds.
Ordering and Buying Information
LTK: If a customer likes a particular design, can it be re-created?
S&E: Although each one is unique, we can usually replicate very closely anything again.
LTK: How long does an order take to ship?
S&E: We usually have a good stock for immediate shipment, special orders take 4 weeks.
Ordering early prior to major holidays is advised.
Elaine's Top Picks
Elaine not only assists in the Sweetipurse designs, she also carries the bags. When asked what her favorite bag was, Elaine was torn: "Tuti Baguette, no Tuti Cocktail, maybe Barcode Sport … or Romantic Pink clutch…"
You may have difficulty in deciding what your favorite Sweetiepurse bag is, too. From large totes to mini market bags, retro baguettes to classy chain handle evening bags, you may have found your new favorite handbag line!