Introducing même bête: The Art of Bag Making

Taribba Hinkson and son

Taribba Hinkson is a 29-year-old development professional. She was raised in St. Lucia and studied in Canada. She has an undergraduate degree in International Development and an MBA in International Management. She also has a professional International Project Management designation. After working in the not-for-profit field, aiding businesswomen to obtain export markets in North America, she decided to use her knowledge to start up a business of her own. 2009 saw même bête’s humble beginnings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The idea was to create an East meets West vibe by combining the best of Ethiopian leather with the most energetic African traditional cotton. même bête currently works on custom orders for weddings and fashion shows as well as for wholesale orders.

The name même bête comes from a St. Lucian Creole saying that roughly translates to we are all the same. The name also creates a loose pun on the various types of leather used, ox, sheep, goat and cow.

Natalie d’Auvergne: How did you get into the bag making business? What was your initial inspiration and how difficult was it to get your business off the ground?

Taribba Hinkson: As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I needed some extra cash and was racking my brain thinking of something

Kwéyòl couture!! All styles available in traditional St. Lucian madras!!

I could do to supplement my income. I was already familiar with the local artisans and the materials available, due to my work with trade businesswomen in Ethiopia, so I thought it would be interesting to put a new twist on the typical Ethiopian leather bag. The local leather is abundant and very high quality and I’ve always loved the vibrant colors of the West African Dutch wax. I put two and two together and the rest is history. I have recently branched into making bags with madras as well, which is very popular with my African clientele.

Getting started wasn’t too difficult because I already had so many contacts with local artisans who were able to guide me and assist me whenever I got stuck. I started off at the many bazaars and craft fairs around the country and I have now built up a strong enough clientele that people seek me out when they are looking to buy. I mainly sell custom and wholesale orders from my home now and do the occasional crafts fairs.

d’Auvergne: A major distinction between art and craft is the notion of “art for art’s sake” as opposed to the practicality of craft products. Your pieces  accomplish both; the beautiful bold patterned fabrics are artistic, while the structural design of each handbag offers functionality for everyday use. Tell me a little about the creative process. How do you balance aesthetics and practicality?

 

 

Bold Print compliments même bête

Hinkson: Well, I really want my bags to be functional so I stick with clean classic designs. I leave the art aspect to the makers of the cloth who put a lot of tradition and history into their designs. The color combination between the cloth and the leather is also very important. I try not to make the leather outshine the cloth but rather compliment it. I stick to muted shades when the cloth is vivid and more brilliant colored leather when the cloth pattern is more subdued.

d’Auvergne: How involved are you in the entire process? Do you have a hand in the actual construction of the pieces or are they factory made? Do you design them yourself?

Hinkson: I do everything myself. I design, purchase my materials, make the bags, do the marketing labels, selling… everything. I am a one- woman business. When I have large orders for trade shows etc., I outsource some of the work, especially now, with a ten-month-old son; balancing work and motherhood is difficult.

 

d’Auvergne: You were raised in St. Lucia and now live in Ethiopia. How similar or different are the two cultures and how have your experiences influenced your designs?

Hinkson: Ethiopian and St. Lucian cultures are worlds apart, from everyday nuances to the food and music. In my opinion, the  two cultures have absolutely nothing in common. Most of us as Black-Caribbean people tend to identify more with West-African culture as we are descendants of West African slaves. I am still adjusting to Ethiopian life four years later, and still find myself lost and sometimes lonely. Many people have never heard of St. Lucia and I spend a lot of time explaining how St. Lucia and Jamaica are two different countries!

d’Auvergne: How does your everyday life influence your designs? For example, now that you’re a mother, do you have any plans for a baby bag or something specifically designed for the hectic lives of new mothers?

Hinkson: Yes, of course, I am selfish with my designs and tend to make bags that I would want. Then with customer feedback, I tweak designs to incorporate their suggestions. I find that, being a mother, I appreciate a longer strap on my bags, like a messenger style that will keep my hands free to grab a fast moving baby. This has sat well with my customers.

d’Auvergne: If you were to compare your designs to any existing line what would it be, why or why not?

Hinkson: I don’t think there is an existing line like mine. I’m hoping that African print and madras can be seen as trendy all year round and not just a seasonal print.

Interested in learning more? Visit même bête at http://www.meme-bete.com/

or on facebook  at www.facebook.com/meme.bete.

Place an order at http://www.etsy.com/shop/memeb​ete (worldwide shipping) 

même bête is also available in St.Lucia, contact Taribba Hinkson at  (758) 450-1326

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7 Comments

  1. Trace said,

    December 22, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    Beautiful work! It’s exciting to see an enterprising successful black woman forging ahead artistically and commercially. I love her bags and the inspiration behind their creation!! Interesting interview!
    t.

    • Torie said,

      May 14, 2017 at 7:02 AM

      Very informative. Are there any exemptions to the Business Tax (BT) or the withholding tax if the Chinese cuesbmer/ouytr for purchase of equipment from a non-resident enterprise is the Chinese government or one of its agencies?

  2. Loverly Jn Paul said,

    December 22, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Great interview! Beautiful bags and concept! I wish Taribba continued success!:)

  3. Cynthia Manson said,

    December 23, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    Good interview questions! I particularly like the one concerning “Art for Art’s Sake” and other aesthetic questions. Merry Christmas, Natalie!

    • AphroditeAres said,

      December 24, 2010 at 1:22 AM

      Thanks. Merry Christmas, Cynthia.

  4. December 3, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    I like your design.
    I am a bag designer we can share ideas.
    if u need please contact me.
    by 251-911508630
    or BELEN.SOLOMON@ethiotelecom.et
    good day

  5. Ginger Snapp said,

    August 7, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Meme bete is the ish dawg! I be rockin mines to da club yo!


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