By Erin Williams


I recently heard a story about a set of twins that were born and placed in separate incubators. One was healthy but the other was malnourished and not expected to live. As the situation grew dire, a nurse decided to go against protocol and put the babies together in the same incubator. The healthier of the two put his arm around his brother in a hug, and with that, the little one’s heart rate began to rise. Eventually, he was deemed to be alright and both were able to go home. I saw a picture of the two infants amongst paintings from a homeless man, magazine clippings, and pictures of flowers on designer Elissa Bloom’s “wall of inspiration” in her studio. And after meeting her, it seems that a little hug goes into each of her designs to make someone feel special and happy.

Though she started off with laminated placemats, this Boston native with no official art training quickly worked through Christmas ornaments to holiday cards to find her most successful medium: beaded accessories. Carrying a sketchbook with her, the founder of Bloomin Designs doodles and then goes back to see what would work well for her line. Originally everything was beaded and we were introduced to “The Girls” – Elissa’s cast of ladies inspired by family and friends that graced about two-thirds of her collection (the other being hearts and butterflies). Currently offering 17 different accessory options, the line that started about two years ago has blossomed along with Bloom.

Some of my favorites from her new Spring/Summer collection are the “Straw Bags.” Offering four designs in a wicker tote, these bags are sturdy but not heavy and give visions of picnics and beach trips with their gingham linings. Each “girl” is hand-appliquéd with her straw hair and flower while the color-coordinated leather straps won’t grab at your shoulder.

The “Girls’ Coin Purses” are the perfect size for a night on the town and are far cuter than carrying your bulky wallet in an attempt to consolidate. With just enough room to bring along your gloss, money, and a key, you can scoot around the city with Rachel (pictured), Lauren, Emma, or Penelope as your sassy sidekick. Their beaded faces lie on top of water-resistant canvas and promise to perk up your night.

And if that size doesn’t cut it, the “Beaded Garden Disco Bags” should. With a fully beaded front, back, and strap, these are pretty enough to dance the night away in as well as hold your cell phone and a power bar to keep going. Offered in “Tulip,” “Daisy,” as well as my favorite, “Butterfly” with its beautiful glass beads, these are great for the girl who doesn’t want anything to get in her way.

If there are any new moms out there who are laughing at the thought of being able to carry a five-inch-square purse then let me introduce you to the “Jordyn Diaper Bag”. Lightweight and waterproof this bag will not make you look or feel like a frumpy mom, but a domestic goddess. Get ready – okay, we’ve got side sleeves to stash bottles, a snap-in zippered pouch, detachable key ring, cell phone holder, about a million pockets, a diaper pad, and metal feet because its bottom is important too. A little beaded face adorns the front (two new designs are on the way for fall), and all you need now is someone to change the diapers!

Then there’s the bag for those of us who don’t have babies but like to carry around just as much stuff. The “Ribbon Totes,” available in black and turquoise, are so beautiful and functional at the same time. With multi-colored ribbons of different sizes running on both sides of these canvas bags, there’s a little bonus of a beaded “girl” coin purse that dangles from the strap. This is the perfect running errands or overnight bag, and I speak from personal experience when I say that you’ll get lots of compliments.

The great thing about Elissa’s bags is that they’re stylish but very practical. Perfect for gifts for friends or for yourself, her whimsy designs may inspire you to get a little creative, laugh, or just brighten your mood. We could all use a hug every now and then anyway.

Stay tuned for Elissa’s fall collection, Sky Belles, a travel collection of totes, laptop cases, clutches, wallets, and more with new leather cutout “girls” including Decca Music Group’s recording artist, Hayley Westenra, You can also find Elissa’s current collections at Takashimaya, Sacco, and Verve in NYC and at As a special offer, readers get 20% off if you order before July 4th by entering coupon code “beautynewsnyc”.

Originally published June 2004



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