Meet the Maker : Sitting Pretty Designs

Sitting Pretty Designs - Lesley in Studio

Sitting Pretty Designs is an accessory label owned & operated by Melbourne based designer Lesley Curnow.

Each piece is crafted by hand, with an emphasis on quality, a unique combination of leather & locally designed textiles, and a little quirkiness!

Lesley hand picks every leather hide and textile, the majority of which are made by Australian designers. She works tirelessly in her sunny Kew studio ensuring everything is made using the best quality materials & machinery.

In addition to the leather bags, her best sellers include her highly coveted sweet & quirky shower caps, as well as heat packs & eye pillows filled with Australian grown wheat and lavender.

We caught up with Lesley to find out more about her handmade business!

How it all began

The expression “sitting pretty” means to be in a good position or situation!

In 2012, I was home with my 2 babies (I now have 3), looking for a way to express my creativity and was also lucky enough to be living in a house with a light filled sunroom , overlooking the natural beauty that is the Yarra River and Boulevard. I have always been creative, and I love to give gifts that are unique, and made from premium materials. At the time many of my friends were getting married and having babies, and with that comes gift giving. I found it difficult to find unique gifts, so I began making them. I received such positive feedback that it became apparent to me that there was a gap in the market for this kind of thing. I thought “Maybe I could change that!” and so I did!

Sitting Pretty leather Bag
Sitting Pretty Designs handmade heat pack
Sitting Pretty Designs - handmade Bag on Hook

About the creative process

My creativity and passion is driven by the many (very talented) Australian surface designers who create the most beautiful textiles. I am always finding new fabrics and have on many occasions created a new handbag or clutch to suit a specific fabric design. It’ll quickly become apparent to you that I am particularly passionate about Australian flora and fauna. Like many, I am inspired by nature!

I love to be in my studio, just me, my pound pup Wally and my many pot plants! I put my playlist on and get into the zone, making, creating and playing with my huge stash of Australian textiles, leather hides and much more. That said, something that I’ll never take for granted is the flexibility that this career offers. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do a “job” that I love, whilst juggling family life with a husband in emergency services.

The evolution of Sitting Pretty Designs

Sitting Pretty has evolved a little. Not so much with the range of products on offer., as this has been quite consistent, but more so with the volumes in which I am working with. Initially I had a handful of online customers, then came a few small markets around the fringes of Melbourne and a couple of collaborative exhibitions.  From there I picked up a couple of stockists and I now wholesale to almost 40 small businesses around Australia.

Market life

The Handmade Markets are great and I love being around so much creativity. I love seeing what other designers are working on, but the thing I really love is connecting with my new & returning customers. Often they haven’t found quite what they are looking for in a Sitting Pretty handbag, so we work together to tailor make something that is truly unique for them. This is incredibly rewarding!

As we approach the festive season I always try to come up with new gift ideas. The ever popular gift boxes have different inclusions each year. I am currently working with other Australian small businesses to showcase some new products that will compliment our wellness range.

I will be at the October Handmade Market, poised and ready! Come say hello, come and tailor make something with me, come just to admire and appreciate my wares. After the couple of years we’ve had, I’m just really happy to be travelling interstate and seeing friends again, new and old. Can’t wait!

Some advice for those thinking about starting a business

The best business tip I have received was from another designer, and that is to stick to your vision. As my business grew, the advice I received from many was that if I wanted to keep up with demand I needed to go off shore.  This never sat right with me, and I felt it would take the fun and creative control out of things. I have stuck to my vision and still have full creative control over all of my products. I still enjoy that direct contact I have with my clientele and I am truly happy to keep it that way.

My own advice for those starting out, would be to surround yourself with other successful people in small business. Align yourself with people with similar values and ideas and allow them to give honest advice. There is still so much I don’t know about being in business, and even after almost 10 years I am still learning so much. Also, if you’re not good at something (for me it’s accounting & website maintenance) then find someone who is, and outsource! 

Follow Lesley’s Business Journey on Instagram and Facebook and be sure to take a at her website- Sitting Pretty Designs, to see her full product range.