Why Hipsters for Sisters Thinks Belt Bags Will Set You Free

Recently, I spoke with a (skeptical) friend about the future of eco-conscious fashion. Green retailers can’t compete with the on-trend titans of conventional fashion, he mused. This is a common misconception, I think, for those on the outside looking in. To him, the gap between the two industries looks like a dark chasm. We can agree, at least, that genuine innovation is the savior of the ethical fashion industry. But that’s not necessarily something that is forth-coming. In my opinion, it’s already here.

Take strictly made-in-L.A. brand Hipsters for Sisters for example. They’ve completely turned the concept of fanny packs and hip bags on its head. In just five years, they’ve shaken up and reinvigorated the fashion industry—all without compromising their values. In fact, all of their vegan bags are produced locally and ethically just miles from their home office, allowing them to have a personal relationship with the family-run company that makes their product. 

We gravitate towards HfS not just because it’s vegan, utilitarian, or fairly produced but because it’s simply great fashion. Period. 

Today, we’re proud to share with you an interview with co-founder Rachel Denniston, coupled with some never-before-seen images from Anti, an editorial in our latest issue. Read on to catch a glimpse of what makes this revolutionary brand tick — Magdalena.

Interview conducted by Magdalena Antuña and Brittany Zenner. Editorial credits below.


Tell us about your role at Hipsters for Sisters.

Our roles overlap a lot, but I mostly handle creative direction, design, and marketing. Debra and I collaborate on the designs of our bags, yet she is the sourcing queen and is amazing at finding us the most beautiful and hi-tech sustainable fabrics.

 
 

How did HfS begin?

It was my mom, Debra's, idea to start Hipsters for Sisters. She fell in love with the fanny pack when my sister and I were just toddlers. She used it to hold her keys and wallet, which enabled her to leave the diaper bag unattended as she ran around with us at the park.

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical at first when she told me she wanted to re-invent the fanny pack. But I was genuinely impressed when I saw her first few designs and after experiencing the joy of being hands-free for myself, I was immediately sold. I'd always been into handbags—and even made my own when I was little—so teaming up with my mom on this was an easy and organic decision for me. We thought if we could combine the hands-free functionality of a fanny pack with the sophistication and craftsmanship of a high-end handbag, we would have the best of both worlds.

At the time, we were both vegetarians and so naturally, we were forced to be more intentional about the materials we chose for our bags. We knew how harmful leather was for our planet, but we were surprised to find out about the toxicity of many non-leathers, like PVC. Instead we opted for eco-friendly certified, vegan leathers and naturally sustainable fabrics that weren't harmful to the planet. We wanted to make something we felt good about, and that was only possible by making our products vegan and sustainable.

Since [2012], we've added many more styles, yet one thing that serves as a common thread throughout all of them is a focus on functionality.

We're on a mission to liberate women from their baggage, so all of our bags are designed to be hands-free and can be worn as belt bags, while many also convert to crossbody and can also be used as a clutch for those few occasions where a belt bag just doesn't work.

 
 

What was the biggest struggle you have faced, getting HfS to where it is today? 

The biggest struggle we've faced is educating people on the importance of why we do what we do—why sustainable and ethical production matters and what exactly they're paying for when they purchase an item. When a piece of clothing is super inexpensive, you have to be skeptical. Why is this item so cheap? Where was this made and under what conditions? How is the production of this garment affecting the planet and the people making it? When buying something, there's always a true cost involved.

I strongly recommend everyone check out the documentary, The True Cost. It is life-changing.

What felt like your “big break”? When did you feel you had 'made it' as a brand? 

I think having actress Elizabeth Banks wear our Pocket Bum Bag in Black was a special moment for us. When we saw she decided to wear it again and again, it was even that much more special to see that she loved it. It's so gratifying to know that people love our products as much as we do. It's truly rewarding and makes you feel like what you do matters.

We especially love Elizabeth Banks because of all that she does for women. As a female-owned brand centered upon empowering women, she's the perfect person to represent our brand.

How is owning an eco-friendly business in Los Angeles?

It's actually really exciting to be at the forefront of an industry that is continually growing and it makes me feel good to think that what I'm part of is something bigger than myself and and part of our future.

There’s been a rise in 'fanny pack' popularity with festival culture. How do you capitalize on that? 

Fanny packs have always been popular with music lovers and concert go-ers, so it's a natural progression for them to be popular at festivals too. [They're] just so handy.

You can be hands-free—while having all of your stuff on you, securely—and have not a care in the world! You can be free to dance and run about, which is what makes them so much fun in the first place. We designed our fringe belt bags with the intention of them being the perfect festival bags. They're extra roomy so you can fit a ton inside and the fringe makes it a whole lot of fun when you dance.

How do you collect inspiration for new bags? 

I find inspiration everywhere. I love looking at vintage bags and books, and of course, Pinterest, but where I really love to find inspiration is at art museums. I studied Art History in college and there's just a part of me that loves art that will never go away.

What is your favorite bag and how do you wear it?

My favorite bag (to my demise) is the Pocket Bum Bag in Black. It's so good, I literally never take it off, which is bad because I'm supposed to be switching out styles and trying new ones. But I'm a creature of habit and this bag literally goes with anything and everything and is just way too convenient for me to have to change my bag out for another one. I wear it wherever I go-- to yoga class, to the grocery store, to bars, out dancing. It looks great with literally anything. My rule is that my bag should match my shoes. Not sure where I picked that up, but seems to work for me. I'll wear it with anything as long as it matches my shoes. :)

What are the 3 items, other than your cell, that you always keep in your bag?

My keys, credit cards/cash, and maybe some mints—you never know when you're going to need those! ;)


Shop the Editorial

 
 

Editorial credits | Makeup by Magdalena Antuña. Modeled by Taylor Brandeger and Livvy Bennett. Photographed by Mika Locklear with an assist from Sydney Huddleston and Made Claire. Styling by Julia Dixon of Trash Vintage.