It’s all about the handbag for Sarah Shell. The third-year Dental student’s love for fashion has seen her designer handbags on the arms of such stars as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, among others. While her love for fashion and designing handbags continues, her main focus is school.
“From day one, I knew I was in it all the way. I love it every day,” said 33-year-old Shell, of her time at Western. “I’ve met such incredible people in this program, the doctors and students are so interesting.”
Initially thinking of medical school after graduating from McGill University in 2003, Shell first decided on a summer adventure to Florence, Italy, for a quick two-month fashion course. She was hooked.
“I simply loved it. I loved the people and the creative freedom that I felt,” she said. “I felt like I was also discovering myself, plus it’s so hard not to be a happy person when you’re in Florence.”
After being accepted to Parsons: The New School for Design, an elite century-old design institute in New York, Shell soon found herself interning for various companies such as Club Monaco and Gucci, but found it to be too much of a ‘desk job’ and returned home to Calgary to do freelance work.
One day while in a store, Shell came across, of all things, rifle straps. Loving the intricate pattern, she bought them to make a purse for her and her mother. A local retailer spotted her new creation and asked her to make some for her store. Before you knew it, Shell was featured in a few fashion magazines and business began to flourish.
Unable to keep up with orders, she quit freelance job and launched 442 McAdam, named after the address of her grandparent’s home in Winnipeg.
“It was nerve racking, but I was making money. I was getting a great response from customers and had a hard time filling orders,” she said.
And when names like Gaga, Swift, Perry and Cyrus all want your bags, life has got to be good.
“I remember hearing about Lady Gaga and going gaga,” Shell said. “It’s a wonderful moment, but to me the ‘I made it’ moment is when my mom comes home and tells me people stopped her on the street and asked her about her bag. My moments are when people text me a saying they just saw my bag go by on the street.”
After a hectic few years in the designing game, Shell began to crave science again. She took the Dental Aptitude Test, was accepted into the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and hasn’t looked back.
School is number one, but Shell still spends her weekends keeping the designs flowing and the company thriving.
“Things are going great for me. I’m not doing it (designing) for the career aspect anymore, but for the love of doing it for myself. I got lost in the business side of it, but its now back to doing it for me.”
Story originally appeared in the Aug. 21 edition of Western News.