Sarah Oliver

DESIGNER SARAH OLIVER grew up watching generations of her family knit together, and her love of the craft led to the casual creation of handbags for friends and loved ones. Soon friends of friends were requesting Oliver’s unique clutches and mini-purses, and after an initial trunk show, Sarah Oliver Handbags was off and running. But the crux of Oliver’s story is her new knitting circle — a group of residents at The Redwoods senior community in Mill Valley known as the Purlettes +1, who, along with Oliver, produce all of the knit fabric used to create the line of bags. PHILOSOPHY The self-named Purlettes +1 (the “one” being the group’s sole male member) are incredibly passionate about their work; after all, being a part of a company at upwards of 80 years old is an impressive feat. The group has inspired Sarah Oliver Handbags to build teams of Purlettes across the country. “We believe our business model can lead to a movement to better support this gifted and wise segment of our society,” says Oliver. THE SCOOP Either Oliver or a member of her team meets with the Purlettes +1 to pick up completed fabric for the bags — which are finished at the Sausalito office — and drop off more wool. “The wisdom imparted at each gathering and the ongoing support from the Purlettes +1 is unparalleled,” says Oliver. The Purlettes’ weekly knitting circle features a fair amount of socializing, as well as strategizing about how to improve patterns and grow the company. BEYOND MARIN You can find Sarah Oliver Handbags at specialty boutiques across the country, as well as in Bermuda, Korea and online, where they retail from $145 to $185. But wherever you purchase your handbag, Oliver assures customers, you are investing in a statement piece that doubles as a great conversation starter. “People buy the bags for the style, then fall madly in love with the story behind them,” she says. WHAT THEY SAY “With every Sarah Oliver handbag, we are empowering seniors, giving them a newfound sense of purpose and community,” says Oliver. “Our knitters say they never dreamed they would be hired to knit bags, and that their creations would come to be sold all over the world.”