A New Look at Lynn’s Paper Bags

LYNN – Fresh off the press: Planet Couture, a woman-owned business in the Lydia Pinkham building, is starting to see a return to normal in its market for unique, eco-friendly handbags made in newspapers and magazines.

After the pandemic halted shows and stable orders, Couture Planet has scheduled its first shows for more than a year, most notably in Texas and New Hampshire.

The annual Open Studios event in the Lydia Pinkham Building is scheduled for November 21-22, and the building’s residents have gradually returned to events and in-person tours over the past few months.

Business partners Michelle Kane and Kathy Cormier said that while they are delighted to bring their handbags to shows again, they are proceeding with caution after seeing the increase in COVID-19 cases and the severity of the new Delta variant.

“We will continue as if everything is in place until it doesn’t,” Kane said.

When COVID-19 drastically shut down the state, Kane said they were very careful, imposing masks and limiting people entering the workshop to only necessary workers.

Kane, and occasionally Cormier, their full-time sewer Maximo Ramírez and some part-time employees were the only ones to work in their workshops for a while.

Since the vaccines were made available to the public, Kane said they saw their local customers walk into the store to say hello and register, which had not been done for a year and a half.

Couture Planet didn’t stop working during the pandemic, but quickly made the transition to incorporate masks into its inventory.

They continued to produce their handbags and wallets from old newspapers, but saw a drastic increase in the need for masks.

“We have an inventory of masks ready to go, if we have to start over,” Kane said.

When the company started making masks last year, Kane said it all happened so quickly that they didn’t have a sufficient supply of all the necessary materials, such as rubber bands.

Kane said the Lydia Pinkham building companies have truly come together during the pandemic, sharing resources with each other and providing support and assistance when needed.

“We were all helping each other,” Kane said. “This building has been a great building. There is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of wonderful people here and we are all here for each other.

As demand for Couture Planet’s masks declined, Kane said sales of their handbags increased.

The handbags and wallets, which are created in the Lydia Pinkham Building, are made from old newspapers and magazines, which are delivered or dropped off at the company.

Kane and Cormier sort through newspapers to find photos, headlines and texts that would have a visual impact on their products. The bags, which come in different shapes and sizes, include both local photos and national news from the worlds of fashion, art, food, travel, sports and more.

Kane said his friends – and even his hairstylist – would also curate newspapers and magazines for his business.

“It’s a real community effort, I always like to call it,” Kane said. “This business started as a recycling project in 2009 and has since grown to ship products across the country. ”

The bags are sewn by artisans and use recycled leather straps made by a New England family business.

Couture Planet employs underserved students and mentors students through a local employment program and is committed to working with the community.

Kane said she was grateful to the customers and happy the sales were great.

With a lot of hard work and time spent creating the bags, Kane said she was happy to see people buying the bags again and supporting her business.

Ethel J. Montes

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