In an age of mass automation, there’s still something about handworked artifacts that machine-made products will never attain. It’s the attention to detail, the human interaction that gives an extra tug to a loose piece of thread or discerns the grain of leather for an almost seamless cut. And while labels like “artisan” and “handcrafted” are touted often to sell products, the desire for individualized, one-of-a-kind pieces, thoughtfully created with tactile expertise, is not to be played down. Some might argue it is the thinking behind the process, rather than the final product, that is so valuable. And that level of human concentration often comes at a hefty price tag.
With Welden, a small, relatively new handbag company based in Connecticut, the human craftsmanship is as much the story as its signature hexagonal weave. Its bags are created using a time-honored technique originating from a family leather-goods factory now based in China, where the pieces are still made by skilled artisans and designers. Yet despite the complexity and hands-on involvement, Welden bags are offered at a surprisingly approachable price. The whole range is available between $250 and $595—nothing to scoff at, but certainly well below the norm for a luxury handbag.
The mastermind behind the brand is Sandy Friesen, who started out in the handbag industry two decades ago in New York. She met Gary and Cissy Chui, the owners of the leather factory, about 10 years ago and the three began cultivating a business partnership that would eventually culminate in Welden. In 2016, a year after Welden launched, fellow handbag-industry veteran Cori Adams met Sandy through her daughter’s ballet class and joined as VP of sales and marketing. Spanning an ocean and two continents, the foursome essentially runs every aspect of the brand, underscoring how nimble and lean an operation Welden is.
Having stumbled upon the company’s unusually patterned bags, we recently sought out Sandy and Cori to find out more about Welden, its origins and its accessible pricing. Ahead, our interview with the women behind the brand.