When you step into the Rough & Tumble “Studio Store” it’s easy to forget for a moment that you’re in the very small town of Norway, Maine. The high ceilings, wood floors, gorgeous sunlight, and walls lined with beautiful leather bags make the space feel more like a place you’d find in New York or LA. Hip, well-dressed women work behind the workbenches, stomping on riveting machines and hammering hardware into place with wooden mallets. For Rough & Tumble founder, Natasha Durham, and her small team of crafters, this is a brand new space, acquired to accommodate their rapidly growing business. Natasha explains, “ We do all the design and finish work here, but the actual stitching happens in the sewers’ own personal studios. For me, the whole other part of the business is my team and how we all work together and support each other. I feel like I really support them, and I know every minute of everyday that I could not do this without them.”
When Natasha started making bags a few years ago she never imagined that it would turn into a thriving business, allowing her to employ local people and sell her products to customers all over the world. After selling her two fine-dining restaurants in Portland, she decided that it was time to slow down and get to the core of what she really enjoyed doing. She wanted to stretch her creative muscles and get back into the groove of making, so she sat down at her sewing machine for the first time in 25 years and made a couple of small hand bags. “I put one on Etsy and I sold it in 30 minutes. I was hooked. I thought, ‘Oh, I can make things and sell them. That’s really fun!’ I just wanted to do something that would entail continual problem solving,” says Natasha. Those first few pieces that she sewed started what has a become a full line of classic, understated, yet luxurious leather bags.
Though the growth has been fast, Natasha has made certain that the values she began creating with have remained constant. Each and every bag is handmade from start to finish, and the materials used to create them are carefully sourced and always of the highest quality. “Our team continually sources special leathers, textiles and custom fittings, ensuring a fast changing palette of unique and forward looks,” Natasha says. Not only are the bags beautiful, but incredibly functional and smartly designed. Each bag is full of pockets for all the things women carry on a daily basis. The 3-in-1 bags can be worn as a shoulder bag, messenger bag, or backpack – all with the simple tug of a strap. And when Natasha says the bags are “made to last”, she means it. Pick one up and you can immediately tell the difference from a machine-made bag, it just feels like the kind of bag that will last forever. Most importantly though, Rough & Tumble’s expansion has allowed Natasha to create jobs for locals in Norway who had been otherwise out of work, “Today, what is foremost in my thoughts is to bring jobs to this little town,” adds Natasha. The Rough & Tumble bags are a testament to the beauty and function created when something is made by hand.
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