Lyonhart Makes Hip, Functional Bags

Niamh Lyonhart means for her goods to last.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Growing up in rural North Carolina, Niamh Lyonhart’s grandmother taught her how to sew when she was 4 years old. “I hand-stitched red felt pouches with a button; special little sacks I hid around the house for Santa,” said Lyonhart. As a teen, her favorite pastime was trolling flea markets and vintage clothing stores where she gained an appreciation for quality and durability.  “I was amazed by the construction. The dresses were made with extra fabric in the seams, so the clothes could be expanded as you grew. Things were made to last.”

Lyonhart kept sewing and studied art, ultimately working as a professional seamstress and designer for several years.

Four years ago, she moved to Oakland and decided bags were her niche. Inspired by the way things were made decades ago, she launched the Lyonhart Bag Company, a line of durable, attractive canvas and leather bags—each one handmade by Lyonhart.

“My bags are designed to be used every day for many years,” she said. The weather-resistant waxed canvas and oil-tanned leathers are sourced domestically and look even cooler with age and wear. The canvas bags are lined with surplus fabric from Carhartt, again with durability in mind, and the hardware—rivets and buckles—is solid brass, which doesn’t tarnish like silver. Plus, Lyonhart doubles up the seams and reinforces the areas that get the most stress. The bags, which cost between $175 and $230, come in an array of colors, earth tones from black and brown to green and blue, and a range of styles: bucket bags that cinch close, folder-over totes with a cross-body strap, leather over-the-shoulder totes, classic 1960s-inspired saddlebags, and mini-backpacks large enough to fit a laptop.

“Durable doesn’t mean it has to be ugly,” said Lyonhart.

Lyonhart has two helpers in the busy pre-holiday season, but she is basically a one-woman operation with her dachshunds, Emil and Greta, to keep her company during her 70-plus hour weeks in her East Oakland studio.

“I work a lot, but that comes with being an artist,” she said. Lyonhart bags are available online and at Maple Street Denim. LyonhartBags.com 

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