Vanessa Herald ’02 does not give ordinary birthday presents.
In fact, for her friend Jessica Kronstadt’s ’04 birthday, she gave her a duct-tape purse inspired by a Kate Spade design.
“I thought it was just so creative,” Kronstadt said. “I never thought there were that many purposes for duct tape.”
While duct tape seems like an unlikely fashion item, Herald and a friend began creating purses from it during their senior year. Now, Herald is turning her designs into a business — the purses will be sold both in stores and from her web site — and she maintains a keen awareness of how those around her view her work.
“People are like ‘Wow! That’s really weird, but cool,'” Herald said. “I get a really positive response.”
The business, called Vanessa Jean Duct Tape Design, is an extension of Herald’s success selling duct tape purses and other accessories at stores and craft fairs in the Los Angeles area. She explains the venture as an initial desire to do a creative project that’s not “too serious.”
“It’s just expanding, I have more of a consumer base and I’m reaching more areas,” Herald said. “I’m trying to get into a few stores in New York and New Haven, so it’s kind of bicoastal.”
In addition to marketing her purses in stores, she will sell them online at vanessajean.com. Herald said the bags are more moderately priced than those of many popular designers, with a typical purse ranging from $20 to $40.
“In a lot of ways they are geared towards younger people, so it’s better to have them for a younger budget,” she said.
The purses are accompanied by numerous accessories, such as duct tape wallets and belts in many different styles.
Herald uses 21 colors of duct tape, enabling her to create a wide variety of designs by incorporating patterns and stripes with the classic silver look. She also makes different types of purses to serve different functions — styles range from functional messenger bags to “really cute, fashionable” ones.
Each purse design is named after someone Herald knows, including several of her friends from college. She has already made duct tape accessories for many of her family members and friends.
As for how Herald actually uses the tape to put together her unique and functional purses, she says that is a closely guarded secret.
“I can’t really tell you how I make them, cause then I’d have to kill you,” she said.
Herald said she has always enjoyed art, though she was a linguistics major and never pursued art seriously at Yale. Some of her friends, however, noted that she often mentioned wanting to illustrate children’s books and demonstrated her creativity in other ways as well.
“Her room was painted with clouds and poetry. She doodled all the time, and she drew on herself a lot,” Bobby Womack ’04 said.
Womack is a sports columnist for the Yale Daily News.
While Herald was artistic, she spent a lot of time during college pursuing other activities, such as varsity volleyball. Tying both talents together left a lasting impression on her friends and teammates.
“She always used to make posters and cute little bags for all the players, to pump us up for games,” said Betty Picinic ’03.
Picinic said Herald was always the type to take the initiative and start programs during her time at Yale. She was very active with the Community Outreach Committee, a community service organization run by members of various Yale sports teams.
Today, Herald’s friends see the purse business as a natural extension of her personality and are not surprised to see her taking on a project of this magnitude.
“She was always independent,” Luis Poza ’04 said. “I guess I couldn’t really see her working for somebody else.”