Arts October 9, 2023

A Creative Force

The timeless and functional artisan bags of Cindy Kirk Designs

Cindy Kirk, the creative force behind Cindy Kirk Designs, is open, welcoming, stylish, laser-focused, and ever-so-humble. This last detail may be surprising given the fact that her timeless collection of handmade leather handbags is sold nationally and can be found in the arms of fashionable women from San Francisco and Manhattan to Paris and Milan.

Recognizable by the cross stitching and hand-beaded detail that distinguishes every bag, each Cindy Kirk bag is functional and practical in design. “My bags are meant to be used and will develop a rich patina over time,” says Kirk. This only enhances the value of each piece.

As functional as they are beautiful, each CK Bag (as known to devoted followers) is handmade right here in Sun Valley, Idaho, and Kirk employs a practice of zero waste, using cutting scraps to create her popular line of accessories (clutches, wallets, etc.) and a recently launched line of hand-stitched leather belts, and donating the rest to local schools for craft and art projects.

A seamstress by trade, one of Kirk’s first business ventures was Silverlining, a custom children’s clothing line sold regionally. But it wasn’t until Kirk searched for a timeless, simple and functional women’s handbag that she dove into leather goods. “Necessity is the mother of all invention,” Kirk says from her studio in Starweather. “I couldn’t find a bag that wasn’t covered with brand logos, and that had both style and function … so I finally just made my own.”

Kirk hadn’t set out to launch another business, but when she carried her new bag to a ladies’ luncheon at Cristina’s Restaurant (now AROMA restaurant) sometime around 2007, the women in attendance went mad over the style and functionality. After Kirk admitted that she had handstitched it herself, the women begged her to make them one—and Kirk’s signature bag, “The Cindy” (featuring a timeless silhouette, hidden magnet closure and functional exterior and interior pockets), was launched!

The rest is history, and Kirk now has more than 30 custom handbag designs that she rotates through her collection, handmade in both classic and fashion-forward palettes of fine Italian and European leathers and featuring hand stitching and beading, and custom hand-dyed zipper details on her newest line of bags for added functionality.

“To this day, I am dedicated to following my passion: designing the perfect handbag, one that has a beautiful balance of shape, detail, leather, texture, and utility,” says Kirk. Akin to the vision of the founder, the Cindy Kirk customer is a quietly confident woman. She isn’t defined by brand labels and has a timeless style … but she isn’t afraid to carry a bag as a fashion statement!

This article appears in the Fall 2023 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.