For Gina Konn, a passion for the past led to a future turning history into fashion. Horse-crazy ever since she was an eight-year-old in Oregon who saved up $100 to buy her first horse, Gina grew up to become a pattern maker for women’s swimwear in Southern California’s surf industry.
Standing in her barn one day, she was struck by the beauty of the old burlap sacks she had hung on the wall for decoration. “I thought, ‘I could make a purse out of that,’” she recalls.
SEEKING “LOST HISTORY”
Gina replicated the artwork on the burlap, sewed up some prototype bags, brought them to a street fair, and they sold faster than she could stock them, to other fashion aficionados who also love horses and history. “I love meeting people at fairs and shows—I can spend a half-hour getting to know a customer,” says Gina. “Connection to the customers is big for me,” just as connecting the past to the present is American Glory’s mission.
Excited and energized by customers’ response, Gina went into business with her husband, Brian, and American Glory was born. Now she seeks out inspiration from what she calls, “lost history—posters, packaging, advertising, ephemera, things that weren’t meant to be kept.” Two of American Glory’s most popular designs, for example, have their roots in whiskey ads and Desert Water bags which were used by motorists to carry water in their cars in case the radiator overheated. “It’s really nostalgic,” says Gina. “People react with, ‘Oh, my grandpa had one of those!’” While the images are retro, the bags are streamlined and rugged, fitting today’s independent spirit.
DESIGNING THE FUTURE
After finding just the right artwork, Gina screenprints the designs, then sews the prototype for each bag herself—up to four times until it’s perfect—before having the crossbodys, handbags, and satchels produced out of top-quality leather and linen that looks like burlap but is far less scratchy.
“Everything from the materials to the design takes a lot of time, thought and care,” says Brian. “Gina thoughtfully creates and revises every single prototype—down to perfecting exactly how many stitches per inch—until she has a bag she truly loves and knows customers will be proud to carry.” After all, each bag has to live up to the era that inspired it and the person who carries it. As Gina says, “It’s about bringing our history into the present”—and doing so in timeless style.