Bag lady: Local designer goes electronic

Kiss off, Kate Spade. Move over, Monica. Here comes Victoria Horner. Although this local designer may not be a household name yet, her bags, made in the dining room of her Market Street home, have attracted attention from some big names, including actresses Cameron Diaz and Liv Tyler.

Horner makes her bags which range from $60 to $140– in six styles and from 15 different fabrics. From the tiny cocktail clutches to the larger "doctors bag," there is one for any occasion even a bridal bag, made of cream colored satin. She also makes one-of-a-kind beaded bags from vintage kimonos (Diaz' and Tyler's preference, Horner says) as well as diaper bags, checkbook covers from vintage fabric, and walker bags and pill-case covers for elderly clientele.

Though Horner's designs have been offered in a variety of local stores including Eloise, Dixie Divas, and Gold Violin, she says she's now steering away from wholesaling her products and is instead trying to pump up her website, victoriahorner.com, which allows shoppers to custom order bags in any style and fabric.

From the 30 or more bags in her showroom/living room to the Pfaff sewing machine, thread, scissors, patterns, and rolls and rolls of fabric in her dining room/workshop and extra bedroom, it's clear that Horner's hands are rarely idle and she says that's the way she's always been.

Now 42, Horner grew up in Richmond before moving to Florida with her family for high school. She learned to sew as a young teen visiting her grandmother, and by her mid-teens she was making many of her own clothes.

Following college at Florida State where she majored in visual communications, she moved north to New York City where she continued to design and create her own dresses while working in advertising at Interview magazine. (She says she saw late mag owner Andy Warhol nearly every day on he elevator.)

Encouraged by coworker enthusiasm, Horner submitted six of her dress designs to upscale department store Henry Bendel "on a whim." Bendel bought five of her designs and ordered 30 of each. Suddenly, Horner was in business.

When her now-ex-husband moved to Charlottesville in 1995 for a business opportunity, Horner came along. Realizing she was burned out," she took more than six months off before returning to designing and this time she made bags her focus.

Though she now has an assistant, Horner herself does all the cutting and sewing– and she says she plans to keep it that way. She's begun marketing her work regionally, but she's cautious about advertising nationally because she says often small designers rise quickly and then fail because they can't keep up with demand.

"I want to have my hand in every single bag," Horner explains, "because I enjoy it."