Betsy Baird’s 2013 visit to Prospect Park inspired her to create the Prospect Tote—our vote for the official, unofficial Brooklyn tote—and launch her collection, Sylvan Park. We chatted with Baird about her line and the Prospect Tote.
How did you start in this industry? What was the initial appeal?
When I moved to New York I wanted to do design full-time and I really loved leather. At that point, everything was conceptual and I was just playing around with different concepts I wanted to go with, while also wanting to work with my hands. So it really changed when coming up with the Prospect Tote, the original bag that sparked my interest in everything else. Part of the reason I made the original bag was because I wanted a great functional bag that I could feel confident walking into a really important meeting with or taking on a work trip. So our original Prospect Tote was designed as just that: a functional bag that you could have for years and years. I had in mind the working girl who plays different roles. So I wanted to make a bag that worked for her.
Why are all your bags, and even the collection, named after parks?
Sylvan Park is actually a neighborhood in Nashville. I own a house in Nashville, and Sylvan Park was always my favorite part of the city. It has tree-lined streets; it’s just super charming. It came from there, but it had the second meaning of how important parks are to me. I’m always drawn to them when I use to travel for music and visited a new town. I would try and go find where the local city park was. So in coming up with a name, it seemed really fitting. So I named all the bags after parks; at this point they’re all after significant parks in my life. And when we expand, I’m sure there will be a significant park for everyone.
What was so significant about Prospect Park?
I live in Brooklyn, and Prospect Park was my park in Brooklyn. So over that course of a year-and-a-half when I was trying to figure out what the company was and what to put out, I spent a lot time in that park.
What’s the overall aesthetic of Sylvan Park?
It’s timeless, simple, and… I know functionality isn’t really an aesthetic, but to me it’s just as important of a design feature. The Prospect Tote has wide straps, which is very important when you have a tote that size, especially when you do what most women I know do, which is carry their laptops and tablets, magazines and a lot of other stuff. We try to balance form and function, and don’t compromise on one or the other. My goal as a designer is do something really meaningful in a simple way.
Your entire collection is designed and manufactured in New York City by local craftsmen.
I believe in taking care of your community, and there’s no reason why we can’t support local industry. There are a lot of people that do really great work here. And I like that I get to be hands-on, and get to go visit the factory. I think transparency in fashion is becoming more popular, and I love that people are paying attention to the way clothing and, in my case, accessories are being produced. I’m proud that I can offer something authentic I can stand behind.
What kinds of products are you hoping to expand to in the future?
I’ve had a lot of people ask about men’s wallets, which our leather lends itself to do men’s pieces. So we’ll start with some men’s pieces, I’m not sure if we’ll go all the way to bags right away, but expand more into men’s wallets. And I also want to play around with combinations with fabrics and leathers. I’m currently working on a specialty piece in collaboration with a textile designer named Whitney Crutchfield. So how the Bryant bag has a brass tassel, we’re working on a fiber arts tassel that is also interchangeable. We’re trying to launch before the holidays, so it should be really fun. I’m really excited for what comes from it.