By Jenny Rebholz   Published Aug 25, 2004 at 5:37 AM

{image1}Do the accessories make the outfit? Do you judge a woman by her purse? If that's the case, then Angie Spellman to the rescue ... she could end up being Milwaukee's Superwoman of accessorizing.

After seven years in the world of sales and marketing, Spellman was starting to feel a little burnt out. She loved handbags and started playing around with a few ideas. She had seen similar concepts finding success in Chicago and D.C., so she embarked on a new venture. She is now in the business of "customized handbags and accessories that are unique to you," tagged Angela Frances.

"It is a designer handbag that you customize to make your own; your personality puts a spin on the design" says Spellman. "It's a niche. Women in Milwaukee are tired of going to the mall. They want something that is high-end, designer and unique."

The so-called "build-your-own-purse process" is as easy as one, two, three and, well, four steps. First you choose a bag style. Spellman offers about 12 purse styles all named after cities. Will it be the Phoenix or the Soho, the Seattle or the Milwaukee? You choose. Then select fabrics for the inside and the outside. Do you want an inside zippered pocket? Next you debate the handle style. Leather straps or tubing, bamboo, metal or fabric, what will it be?

And last but not least, you have the extra special option of a designer embellishment, maybe a grosgrain ribbon detail or a vintage broach. It will cost you a little extra, but aren't you worth it? It all depends on the fashion statement you want to make.

In addition to your custom selections, Spellman ensures authenticity by purchasing fabrics in small yardages. "It keeps the products unique and individual," affirms Spellman. "You won't find all the same bags walking around town."

This helps to keep her product new and fresh. She finds her fabrics in Milwaukee, Chicago and New York and doesn't pigeon-hole her customers. "My customer is anywhere from 18 to 70 years old and my price ranges from $15 to $140," describes Spellman. "I try to do a little bit of everything, so I cross all economic and age groups."

To get your hands on one of the Angela Frances handbags, you also have options. Currently "Purse Parties" are the most popular method. Spellman speaks to private groups of six or more women and works with the attendees to design their purses. If the party scene is not for you, then you can purchase pre-made handbags at the designer boutiques, Lela and Three Graces.

And if you just can't get out of the house, never fear, you can view your options at Spellman's Web site, which is, and call in an order. Regardless of how you choose to shop, you will get your designer original, created-by-you, made-in-Milwaukee handbag in three to four weeks.

After five months, the handbag business is proving to be quite successful for Spellman. She averages two to four parties a week and has had 27 gatherings since Jan. 31, 2004.

"Seeing people get excited about my product is the best part," describes Spellman. "I am meeting great people; this whole experience has been very rewarding."

With continued success, Spellman will be implementing a shopping cart addition to her Web site for on-line purchasing. She even hopes to eventually join the other Milwaukee women who are opening businesses in the Third Ward and on Brady Street. She wants to have a store front presence and contribute to Milwaukee's burgeoning fashion scene.

"It's exciting; fashion is becoming more of a focus. There is a push and a surge for it right now," comments Spellman. "I see it getting stronger. People are watching trends and they want things that are unique; they want to stand out."

She knows that purses are a hot ticket item and that people are enjoying having something different, something they designed.

"With women-owned businesses like Lela, Hers, Three Graces and Blush popping up, I am just proud to be a part of it," says Spellman. "It's fashion, it's fun, and it's about being you; that's the gist of my business."