2011-07-30 / News

Michigan Cities Find Names on Bags by Designer Jenna Kator

By Alyssa Firth

Jenna Kator with her Traverse City bag. She will host a trunk sale July 30 at Little Luxuries. (Photograph provided by Jenna Kator) Jenna Kator with her Traverse City bag. She will host a trunk sale July 30 at Little Luxuries. (Photograph provided by Jenna Kator) From the automotive world to the fashion industry, Michigan native Jenna Kator has successfully transitioned into her new career as a handbag designer, and her Michigan-themed purses and clutches are being featured at Little Luxuries of Mackinac on Main Street. Mrs. Kator, originally from Troy, will be visiting Saturday, July 30, for a Trunk Show at Little Luxuries from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“When I lost my job, I wanted to reinvent myself locally instead of leaving our great state,” Mrs. Kator said.

After being graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising, Mrs. Kator worked in the automotive industry as a media planner for nine years until losing her job in 2008 during the economic downturn. She saw this as an opportunity to start the business she always wanted to.

Working on her fifth collection due out in November, the Jenna Kator Collection has 18 bags named after various cities in Michigan. The first collection was named after cities she had been to. She took suggestions and read submitted stories when she named the next collections. Many of the first bags were named after destination cities like Mackinac and Charlevoix. With the fourth collection and the one coming this fall, Mrs. Kator wanted to highlight metro Detroit and Detroit neighborhoods. The Spring/Summer 2011 collection is named Corktown, Foxtown, Greektown, and Midtown.

“I’m just trying to help revitalize our state as much as I can,” she said.

Even with her automotive past, Mrs. Kator said she has always had an interest in fashion. Her designs are inspired by her memories growing up with her mother, Diana Francisco, who passed away in 2004.

“I can remember [asking], ‘Mom, why are you wearing that?’ and then stealing it a month later,” Mrs. Kator said.

She chose to design bags because of the way they fit into a woman’s everyday life.

“I believe handbags are the essential accessory,” she said. “They tend to increase one’s self confidence without saying a word.”

She wanted to avoid using animal products in her creations, and found synthetic materials through the automotive industry that are high quality and have the look of real leather. She describes the bags as having, “East coast style,” and “West coast attitude.”

The bags are shown at her studio in Royal Oak and in about 30 Michigan stores, and she’s slowly starting to grow outside of the state. Trunk shows are a weekly activity for her this summer, and when Nicole Doud from Little Luxuries told her about Gracie’s Fund, a fundraiser for pediatric leukemia research, Mrs. Kator said she couldn’t turn down donating some of her proceeds toward it.

“I really like giving back to communities. I think it’s important,” she said.

Ten percent of the proceeds will go towards Gracie’s Fund, as well as all of the proceeds from raffle tickets for a Mackinac handbag.

Her collection has been at Little Luxuries for two seasons now.

Mrs. Kator lives in Livonia with her husband, Michael.

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