Alice Saunders is kind of a big deal in the bag world. The 30-year-old native of Hopkinton, N.H., Northeastern grad, and Jamaica Plain resident designs and crafts leather and canvas totes, pouches, and accessories out of her Fringe Union space in Union Square under the label Forestbound. She has also unleashed custom creations for the likes of Urban Outfitters, Patagonia, and Levi’s. She deems herself a creative entreprenuer and shares her travels and love of history with her more than 13,000 followers on Instagram (@forestbound).
Q. Where did the idea for Forestbound originate?
A. In 2007, I was living here in Boston and doing some organic gardening and farming work while still in college. Since in New England the winter is a very slow and cold season for working outdoors, I was trying to come up with another way to make some money. I had grown up with a pretty strong fascination for both flea markets and military history and that, combined with my self-taught sewing skills and hobby of making small pouches and accessories for my friends, collided one winter at an indoor flea market in Lancaster. I spotted an old, olive green canvas military duffel bag, and something in my head just clicked: I could take this piece apart and use the fabric to create something new. I went home and did just that, and quickly followed by starting an Etsy shop. The bags immediately started selling and ever since, I haven’t been able to keep up with the demand.
Q. What does the name mean?
A. To be totally honest . . . I was reading song lyrics over an ex-boyfriend’s shoulder almost 10 years ago and “forest bound” jumped out at me so I went with it. I don’t take the name too literally with my business, like you won’t find any tree- or forest-themed logos or graphics. But I relate personally to the name just with the long-held belief that sometime in the not-so-distant future I’ll relocate myself to a place a bit more rural and slower moving.
Q. How has the brand evolved since you founded it?
A. The quality of the product and my craftsmanship have improved a lot over the last eight years, but what’s at the heart of Forestbound, the brand, hasn’t changed too much at all, actually. My business is built around uncovering historic textiles that may have otherwise been forgotten and transforming them into something new that my customers can carry with them every day. I love being able to bring a little piece of history back into the spotlight.
Q. Do you think exposure from Instagram made your brand grow?
A. Oh, most definitely! I think Instagram attracts a crowd that’s much different from Facebook and Twitter — and I think my brand has benefited from that greatly. I’ve connected with a lot of people all over the world who would become future customers as well as shop owners that became new wholesale accounts.
Q. How has interacting with your customers on something like Instagram changed you as a designer?
A. I’ve really enjoyed this type of interaction, as cheesy as it sounds. But you can really gauge how well received a new design will be by how people react on Instagram from the likes, comments, shares. I most definitely take that into account when designing and choosing fabrics. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll completely change and modify the bags that I have in the works, but I take all of that feedback to heart.