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Allison Abney transforms vintage silks into couture clutches brides (and their maids) will cling to
“When I was little my mother made my dresses,” says handbag designer Allison Abney, “and even then I was very specific about what fabrics I wanted.”Today, the College of Charleston graduate still knows exactly what she likes, and it shows in her line of clutches handcrafted from Japanese obis—traditional brocade belts. The obis hail from the early to mid-1900s and thus appeal to Allison’s vintage-meets-modern aesthetic, which has had people talking since her first creation back in 2003—a red, dragon-emblazoned envelope clutch she carried to a friend’s wedding. “I couldn’t find anything I wanted in stores, so I made my own,” says Allison. Since then, word of mouth has carried Allison’s talents far and wide—her name even popped up on the pages of Food & Wine magazine when friend-slash-fan Tara Guérard of Soirée dubbed the handbag maven her favorite designer. Now Allison ships bags along the East Coast and into the Midwest. And while she plans to sell her line in boutiques as far as New York, her heart remains here in Charleston, where shops like Maddison Row and Vieuxtemps feature her pieces. Although the Allison Abney label specializes in ready-made clutches, she also fashions arm candy for bridesmaids, each personalized to the maid’s favorite color and monogrammed inside for a secret touch. And for the bride? Allison’s popular miniature sack bag does double-duty as “something new and blue” thanks to its robin’s egg lining. As for the production end of things, it’s a family affair, with Allison’s mother (and partner) Trish Fowler’s involvement. While Allison specializes in fresh ideas, Trish is a master patternmaker, and together, the duo creates pieces that span generations. That timelessness really is what it’s all about for Allison. “I want my work to be classic yet contemporary but definitely not trendy,” she says. “I want the pieces to be passed down, like keepsakes.” Allison’s handbags start at $165 and are available at Maddison Row [171 Spring Street, (843) 720-7979], Vieuxtemps [180 King Street, (843) 577-6811], and through her website: www.allisonabney.com.