Chances are you've seen bags by Queen Bee Creations. Thousands of people across the country carry them. The shapes, colors and designs of the popular faux leather style vary but still remain instantly recognizable.
That's an amazing accomplishment for anyone in the accessories trade. Even more impressive? The products are eco-friendly, and designed, manufactured and marketed by a small independently-owned business in Portland, far from the fashion grid.
"I guess it is a pretty identifiable look," says Rebecca Pearcy, founder and designer of Queen Bee Creations. "It's a consistent aesthetic."
Now she's taking that look into the home with a new line called, simply, Rebecca Pearcy. She's stepping carefully into the domestic goods market with as soft launch of just four products that include pillows, tea towels, totes and pleated bags in original silk screen fabrics. The sharpest is a multiple scissors print based on the many different shaped tools the queen bee uses daily at work. There's also a graceful ginkgo leaf print sketched from leaves she's picked up on walks in her Portland neighborhood, seagulls and the silhouettes of a bird affectionately known as The Chirp.
So far there's been no market research or test panels or branding strategy to see if products will fly.
"If I like things," Pearcy says, "other people tend to respond to it."
The fabrics are mostly organic cottons and hemps, silkscreened by hand in the back of the North Williams Avenue shop where about 15 fulltime employees are kept busy cutting fabric, stitching bags, silk screening fabric, marketing and shipping product. Because of trademark issues, the Queen Bee name couldn't be used on home products so she opted to use Rebecca Pearcy. She ran into the same issue when she introduced a line for infants so christened it Chickpea Baby. The home products are pricey -- $22 for a tea towel, $32 for a tote, $48 for a pillow -- but reflect the cost of materials and decent wages to a creative Portland team.
Creativity and commerce seem to go together for Pearcy like milk and cookies. She started as a kid in the Washington, D.C. area, sewing soft dolls and selling them at her school fair. By middle school, she was taking apart vintage clothes, reworking them and wearing some pretty weird get-ups to school.
"Making things and selling them seems to be the theme of my life," she says.
Pearcy graduated from Evergreen College in 1995 and launched Queen Bee the following year. In 2002 she moved herself and the business to Portland, in part for easier access to materials and people, where The Chirp became an iconic image. So iconic, in fact, people have asked if it's the inspiration for the sketch comedy Portlandia line, "Put a bird on it."
"I don't know," says Pearcy, "there are birds everywhere. That's because people like birds. I think (the Portlandia skit) is hilarious."
Regardless, The Chirp perches proudly on the new line of tea towels, pillows and totes.