“I just don’t want to get stuck in a place.”
There’s a lot to admire about Forestbound founder Alice Saunders. A mere 26 years old, and she has already achieved more with her brand than most people do with their whole lives. “Yeah, this is my job,” she says with a smile, leaning against one of the two giant sewing machines that occupy her in-home studio. “I guess it’s going pretty good too.” Between the slew of high-profile press she has received (including real, honest-to-god print publications), her recent capsule collection for Anthropolgie, inspiring a legion of copycats on Etsy, and, the fact that she’s been gainfully self-employed since college, I would say that ‘pretty good’ is a bit of an understatement. “You’re a total success” I tell her. She shrugs, “I guess.”
“I mean, it’s great,” she clarifies. “I love it. I’m lucky. I do know that. But…” She lets the word linger. “I just don’t want to get stuck in a place.” The longer we talk, the more I realize she’s dealt with much of the same pigeonhole-ing I have. That, like me, her openly caring about the environment, and similar so-called “liberal” causes, has led others to lump her together with the kind of self-righteous, slogan-spouting types / companies she and I see our respective endeavors as reactions against. “I hate the word ‘green,’” she says. “And I don’t want to be the ‘recycled bag’ girl.” She looks around the room. “I do know that I am lucky though. And I am very grateful.” I can tell she means it.
Saunders and I joke about our image dilemmas, while I take pictures of her space. Aesthetically, the studio is very much an extension of the bags (or, is it vice versa?). Everywhere I look, there are piles of vintage fabric. All of it painstakingly collected by Saunders, who scours thrifts stores, estate sales, flea markets, and dozens of other locales to source her materials. Coupled with the aged furniture and vintage sewing machines, there is a palpable amount of history in the air. “I’m going to a swap meet with a bunch of military collectors next weekend,” she tells me, her eyes lighting up. “These dudes are serious. Real stuff from the era. It’s gonna be a jackpot,” she says, allowing herself to momentarily get lost in the thrill of the hunt. “A jackpot.”
Despite her occasional – and understandable – frustration, it’s clear that Saunders very much loves what she does. And it shows in her work. Seeing her bags for the first time in person, I’m overwhelmed by how striking they are, and I tell her so. “Thank you,” she says. “I’m actually thinking about doing a collection of men’s bags. Just for guys, not unisex.” I immediately look up from the ticking stripe mason bag I’m holding, my interest at full peak. She laughs. “Glad you like the idea.” How she could ever worry about getting “stuck in a place” is beyond me. Even with all that history in the air, her gaze remains set on the future.
To view Alice’s latest creations, visit the Forestbound website.