Way Out West

Posted online: May 2011

by GINA TOLLESON photographs by CORAL VON ZUMWALT

Emily Rosendahl

“I make each bag by hand to insure they’re one-of-a-kind, individually beautiful, and have Western flare,” says Rosendahl. Handbags range from $85 to $450. Shot on location at Villa Sevillano.

“Arts and crafts were a big part of my life growing up with my mom and my grandma,” remembers Summerland stunner Emily Rosendahl. “A few years ago, my sister and I went to the saddle shop in my hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, and picked up scrap leather to play around with. That is the day I made my first clutch.” Over the last three years, through trial and error, Rosendahl has refined her unique style and broadened her collection to include a variety of rustic handbags.

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Three things always in her bag: “My Small Button Clutch filled with jewelry, a flask of whiskey (you never know when that might come in handy), and my Swiss Army knife.”

What are your inspirations for your collection? I have a neverending love affair with Western and Native American style and try to incorporate that aesthetic into each bag. I grew up riding horses, and saddlebags were crucial for storing necessities. I’m inspired to make bags that are useful and practical for everyday life. I am always dashing from one place to the next, so my bags adapt to any environment I may find myself in. I’m lucky to be surrounded by creative and talented women; it’s easy to be inspired by them.

Where do you source your materials? I buy my leathers in Wyoming, Texas, and California. To add novelty to each bag, I pick up adornments from trips I take. I have shells from Central America, antique African trade beads, elk antler buttons from Wyoming, and white buffalo turquoise beads. I like to add a special treasure or artifact to each bag.

“The Old West, Western style, and Santa Barbara’s casual beach essence heavily influence me,” says Rosendahl.

“The Old West, Western style, and Santa Barbara’s casual beach essence heavily influence me,” says Rosendahl.

Do your pieces reference anything from your past or family heirlooms and traditions? The leathers chosen for my bags are prominent where I grew up. The stitching and sewing came as a direct influence from my mom, who is a great seamstress and taught me to sew at a young age.

Who is your ideal customer? Women who have an appreciation for the uniqueness, subtleties, and heart and soul that can only come from something made by hand. My ideal customers are the girls who like something a little rustic and who embrace character as beauty.

What’s your everyday look? I live in jeans and cowboy boots, but I’ll take a hot pair of stilettos and a cute dress anytime. For me, comfort and simplicity is sexy. I have extensive jewelry, jean, and boot collections and I love to bring attention to a bold necklace or an amazing pair of earrings rather than clothing. Styles and trends come and go, so I like to keep things easy and classic.

Can’t live without? When it comes to material things, I live a simple life. If the bell rang and I had to make a choice, I would leave it all behind. But the two things I couldn’t live without are my boyfriend, Matt, and my dog, Milo.

Check out behind the scenes footage from the Way Out West shoot:

Untitled from Santa Barbara Magazine on Vimeo.

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