Sigal Levine says leather is “a beautiful canvas” for her creativity.
An old pair of boots that she didn’t want to waste helped artist and fashion designer Sigal Levine, 52, of Waterford, find her passion and launch a growing business.
Levine, the owner of Badass Bags, makes one-of-a-kind purses of all shapes and sizes. Her wristlets, crossbody bags, clutches, satchels and totes are made of high-end leather or fur and embellished with tassels, rivets, fringes, buckles, clasps and even paint. Many have interchangeable guitar strap handles, a signature element of her designs. Sigal says it all started in 2016 when she was cleaning out her closet.
“I like to recycle and upcycle things I have around the house. I had a pair of boots that I never wore, but the leather was beautiful,” she recalls. “I decided to see if I could make something out of them.”
She took the boots apart and got two perfect leather squares. Sigal thought the material would make a great bag, so she punched holes in the leather and figured out how to put it all together on the fly. For the handles, she attached a strap from her husband’s guitar. After posting a photo of the finished bag on social media, it sold immediately.
“I couldn’t believe somebody wanted to buy my old pair of boots,” she says. “That’s how the business was born.”
Sigal grew up in Israel near Tel Aviv. Her family moved to Michigan when she was 10 years old. They belong to Keter Torah Synagogue in West Bloomfield.
After high school, she attended the David Pressley School of Cosmetology and quickly made a name for herself as a celebrity hair and makeup artist doing makeup for weddings and videos and photo shoots with rock stars, professional athletes, Olympians, television personalities and others.
While she has no formal training in manufacturing and design, Sigal always had an interest in it. As she created more and more bags, the wife and mother of three children in their 20s had to teach herself how to sew.
“I watched a lot of videos to learn how to do it — I was so determined,” she says. “I turned a hobby into a business. It just took off. I love it.”
Today, her basement studio is filled with sheets of leather in a wide variety of textures and colors. She has industrial sewing equipment and “a whole toolbox” she uses to make the bags including hole punchers, presses, paint brushes and drills. Sometimes, she burns the leather to create the desired effect. Other times, she attaches peace signs, sugar skulls, flowers or fabric to her bags and hand-paints images or words.
She says leather is “a beautiful canvas” for her creativity. Sigal’s fall line includes fur, flames, trim that looks like knotted wire, and bold bright colors.
“I try to make the bags badass to live up to the name,” she says. “They’re all different and unique with a wide variety of styles, leathers and hardware options.”
The bags typically include an easy-to-access cell phone pocket that makes them both stylish and functional. Sigal’s logo is a guitar pick, a nod to her guitar strap handles. She says her designs are inspired by nature or random things she sees.
The bags sell for $200 and up and can be found at Sundance Shoes in Birmingham and Ruby’s Balm in West Bloomfield or on her website, badassbags.online. She will also have a booth at the DIY Art Fair in Ferndale, Sept. 24-26.
“Every mistake I make turns out to be the most amazing creation,” she says. “Clearly this is what I’m supposed to do, play with leather and make beautiful things.”