Lovin’ the lovie

Photographs by Bob Rozycki

For fashionistas who like things sleek and sexy, the Lovie Clutch may just be the ideal accessory.

Felicia Jarzyna, its creator and maker, has come up with a design both timeless and contemporary.

It’s simple in concept – a twist on the traditional envelope-style clutch – yet bold in execution, incorporating a sophisticated rainbow of hues.

And that execution is luxe all the way, with Jarzyna sewing the clutches one by one in her Wilton home studio, using the finest Italian leathers in shades and textures that signal both an unwavering confidence and quite an eye.

There are no run-of-the-mill looks here. Robin’s egg blue combines with warm brown and pristine white for one series, while black, midnight blue and silver make up another design. Another boasts embossed brown suede accented with rose and gold, while black, red and white seem ever fresh on yet another.

But the appeal of the Lovie Clutch continues past an initial glance.

“It’s about the inside also,” Jarzyna says.

And yes, when you open the clutch, rich satin linings in bold solid shades, from hot pink to vivid turquoise, raise the style quotient yet again.

The clutches serve not only a stylish (and practical) purpose – but are another creative outlet for Jarzyna, who’s also a professional makeup artist.

“My thing was I always wanted to be a professional artist, because I was artistic,” Jarzyna says. “I’ve always sewn, created something.”

Jarzyna, who grew up in Greenwich, would eventually leave the restaurant industry to work in makeup some 20 years ago. She has worked for stage productions and in advertising and fashion, to name just a few projects. Some, she shares, expanded to include costume design.

Jarzyna learned to sew at an early age, as her mother had gone to fashion school in Boston.

“We grew up with a sewing machine in the house,” she says, noting that home accessories were favorite projects.

She also recalls trips to thrift shops where she’d find funky sweaters that she’d turn into one-of-a-kind purses.

“Pocketbooks have always been my thing,” she says.

One in particular that she made herself more recently brought her quite a bit of attention.

“It was embossed leather in green and yellow that looks like a neon alligator,” she says with a laugh.

People kept asking her about it and what else she could make.

“That’s how I started making bags,” she says, an effort that eventually led to the design of the Lovie Clutch, which is itself a study in simplicity.

“It’s a square,” Jarzyna shares.

And it’s also something she can whip up on either a standard or industrial sewing machine, depending on the material.

“I’m not a technical sewer,” Jarzyna says. “I hate zippers.”

And leather is not a very forgiving medium.

“Once you’ve made that stitch, you’re committed,” she says.

But it’s the step before that stage is reached that she finds most fulfilling – laying swatches next to each other to come up with unique combinations from the materials she has gathered.

“Everything is so available. You can get thousands and thousands of options.”

She sources her materials primarily in Manhattan and the Bronx, where she can find textures ranging from embossed suedes to patent leathers to colors and finishes matte, textured and metallic.

While all designs have their own personality, some even go beyond that, earning names such as Beyoncé.

“You’ve got to be a strong female to carry this bag,” she says of a gold-accented Lovie named after the singer.

With the handcrafted nature of her work, Jarzyna can offer custom designs for one-of-a-kind gifts or even bridal parties. All clutches come with a cloth case for safe storage, especially important when traveling.

Her bags are also treated inside and out to prolong wear and prevent staining, though it is recommended you keep them from getting wet.

And the name, Lovie? Yes, it’s inspired by the ultra-rich Mrs. Thurston Howell III, from television’s “Gilligan’s Island.”

“She was so spoiled,” Jarzyna says. “She had everything… She was very Fifth Avenue.”

And Jarzyna, though captivated by that fanciful character, also offers another option in Lovie’s sister line, URBAN BURB. These clutches, she shares, feature a bit of an edge or, as Jarzyna says, are “a little tougher.”

Eventually, Jarzyna would like to have her signature Lovie Clutches made for her, allowing her to focus on design and new-product development.

For now, she sells the clutches in her booth at the SoNo Marketplace, the European-style market in South Norwalk. Open Fridays through Sundays, the destination is a showcase of artisans, artists, restaurants and food purveyors. The Lovie Clutches are also available online and have been featured in local boutiques. ROAM in Greenwich, for example, has just added Lovie Clutches to its fashion-forward lineup.

But be warned: These Lovie Clutches can be addictive. Just ask Nan Wasson, who with Michael Heintz sells photographs and prints through Torn Edges at the marketplace.

“I have four Lovies,” she said in mid-June. “I love them. I love my Lovies.”

Seeing her just a few weeks later, she shares that she’s now the proud owner of five.

We’re not surprised.

For more on Felicia Jarzyna’s creations, visit lovieclutch.com. For more on the SoNo Marketplace, at 314 Wilson Ave. in South Norwalk, visit sonomarketplace.com. Lovie Clutches are also available at ROAM, at 19 W. Elm St. in Greenwich, and online at wheninroam.com.


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