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Southern Stories
Mar 19/13

Designs by a Real Life Rosie The Riveter Posted by: Kerri Jackson Case | 0 Comments

Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley were frustrated. They are educated, accomplished, professional women who could not find work in north Georgia. Between the two of them, they had four degrees, but no prospects.

“I have a masters in architecture and my business partner has a masters in business,” said Cruse. “There were just no jobs like that near Camp Merrill.”

The two are military wives, who had relocated to Dahlonega, Ga., with their husbands. They faced the challenge so many military spouses do: finding meaningful employment in the civilian world when relocation is a regular occurrence.

They decided to wait no longer for the economy or the world around them to change. They would take matters into their own hands.

In December 2011, they founded R. Riveter, named for the famous “Rosie the Riveter” painting. The company employs military spouses to produce handmade handbags and accessories from upcycled army surplus materials. Every bag style is named for a famous military wife: Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Bradley or Mrs. Lee. Their creations are nothing short of works of art, each one a unique creation including a label signed and dated by the person who made it.

 “When I met Cameron, it was like a dream for me,” said Amy Perry, one of R. Riveter’s employees. “I’m educated. I’ve done well in previous jobs. But I look like a flake on paper because every 18 months to two years, I leave. This is a job that I can take with me.”

Bradley hand-dyes all the fabrics (military tents, wool blankets and other surplus) at her New York home, where she has since been relocated. She ships them to Georgia where the leather pieces are tanned and cut. Cruse distributes materials to workers, who assemble the bags. Other military spouses in locations around the country work in sales and retain a percentage.

“I have three kids,” said Perry. “There is no way I could get a traditional job that would pay enough to offset their daycare. I would never see them or my husband. This allows me work during naps or after bedtime. As long as I get my bags done on time, it doesn’t matter when I do it. Whenever he gets his next assignment, I can go into sales or keep making purses. It just depends on what works for us then.”

Cruse said the military spouse culture of relying on one another makes this business both possible and helps it thrive, “We’ve been able to take one of the biggest disadvantages of military life and turn it into an advantage of our business.”

Bradley is already in New York, the fashion and retail Mecca of the US, which puts her in a position to keep an eye on trends. Two other employees are scheduled for moves soon to the Portland area, a region known for an appreciation for artisanal goods. R. Riveter is hoping to see a big expansion in that market.

The company is already making name for itself with equestrian groups who often appreciate the leather dying techniques R. Riveter uses. Their dog collars are popular with people who want the very best products for their pets. They are also growing their men’s customer base with toiletry bags.

Bradley and Cruse believe they are offering more than high-end products. They hope when customers buy their bags, they know they are supporting military families in addition to enjoying fabulous fashion.

Bourbon & Boots carries three of R. Riveter’s most popular handbags and totes, as well as leather dog collars in all sizes with a custom engraved name plate. Follow the links to start shopping!

Kerri Jackson Case is physically incapable of parking legally. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, son and two smelly dogs. If you’re around at suppertime, she’ll feed you. You can follow her unremarkable but thoroughly entertaining life at DrinkSleepAndBeKerri.com.



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