One of my first thoughts upon meeting Bonita Hinton years ago was, “That lady’s got pizzaz!” From her long dreadlocks, red at the time, to her bright, colorful clothing and funky eyewear, it was clear that this was a woman who had a passion for fashion. In addition to being one of the most cheerful and down to earth people I have ever come across, Hinton has an incredible eye for trends before they happen. With her natural talent, it’s no surprise that this diva has found a way to make her mark in the fashion world with her very own brand, BabyCakes Bags and Rags, which is currently available on Etsy. A true working woman, she does private vending shows throughout the tri-state area, as well as private home shows. Her designs range from intricate embroidery, handbags, one-of-a-kind accessories, and leather skirts. What do they all have in common? Each item is made with a precision and uniqueness that only a true fashionista could create. I had the chance to sit down with Hinton to discuss the inspiration behind BabyCakes Bags and Rags.
CLICHÉ: How did your interest in making clothes and embroidery start?
Bonita Hinton: My interest in sewing began at a very early age. I have always been interested in fashion and the idea of accessorizing. By the the age of six my mom purchased me my own adult sewing machine that was placed in her sewing room, which opened my world to fashion. She taught me to sew on my machine while she sewed on hers. We also had a Serger and a leather sewing machine [that] I later learned and mastered. I fell in love with fabrics and notions and began to create my own unique style. In grade school I was making my own outfits and creating looks for my friends. In high school, when I couldn’t find a dress as unique as I’d hoped, I decided to make my own. I suppose that’s when my love for sewing and creating my own line began. My interest in graphics and embroidery came later on when I decided to offer customized items using all types of fabrics.
Where does the name BabyCakes Bags and Rags come from?
BH: I had a very strong bond with my mom. She was an amazing inspiration in my life. In addition to being a family business owner herself, she loved sewing, cooking, and baking. I somehow began calling her “Baby Cakes” and told her jokingly that if I ever decided to leave my corporate job and follow my passion of fashion I would call it “BabyCakes Bags and Rags.” The name is very special to me.
What is the embroidery process like from start to finish?
BH: I digitize my own graphics on the computer, which depending on the design could take several hours, and then I transfer the completed design to my sewing machine. Then I choose the colors of the design, which is critical in making the design “pop” and come to life. Once I am ready to stitch out the design, I choose the correct dimensions, embroidery hoop, and stabilizer. Positioning is very important so that the design is centered and results are in the exact place on your garment as well. Many of the detailed designs that I’ve digitized range from 15,000 to 70,000 stitches and take from 30 minutes to 4 hours to sew out.
Do you make clothes as well?
BH: Yes, I do make clothes as well.
Is the process easier or more difficult than embroidery?
BH: My line includes skirts, dresses, and handbags. Just about anything I envision I stitch, including earrings and bracelets [made] from leather and denim. The processes [clothes-making and embroidery] are quite different; however I love them both and tend to tie them together with many garments.
Do you take custom orders?
BH: Yes, I love custom work.
What kinds of designs can people request?
BH: I love creating a garment that my clients will enjoy wearing. Many times they will request a different flesh tone, or a favorite saying or hobby. They will usually tell me their favorite colors or interest to allow me to be creative and surprise them with my own creation. I also do business logos and designs for fraternities, sororities, churches, etcetera. If someone wants a one-of-a-kind handmade leather bag, they will select their leather and I bring it to life.
What sets your line apart from others on the market?
BH: My line is unique in that every garment is one-of-a-kind, using unusual fabrics, findings, and notions. I love the result of combining different fabric textures to create very special items.
Is there a set style that you aim for when making pieces?
BH: When designing I never focus on one set style. I love eclectic pieces when I design my jewelry, and I have such respect for vintage because that is fashion’s history. I love working with ethnic fabric, as well as styling trendy items. Usually when I design a look. I like to be sure to incorporate one classic piece. Pulled together properly, I believe even a classic t-shirt and jeans with a statement piece of jewelry can look fierce.
Where do you hope to see BabyCakes Bags and Rags in the next five to ten years?
BH: While I am in the process of launching my own website, my not too distant goal is to open my first boutique. I will always want to continue to feature my items online because I love the idea of people from all over the world enjoying my handmade pieces. It’s exciting to receive a special order from someone in another state or country. That, to me, is proof that people all across the globe are united, even in fashion.
All photos courtesy of Bonita Hinton.