A sampling of Rebecca Moses’ work.

JUST BAG IT: Rebecca Moses is all about ingenuity, as her latest venture shows.

Although Moses has made handpainted bags for years for friends for special occasions, this is the first time that she is selling them. Her friend Nicole Fischelis suggested that she sell them via Marlene Wetherell’s store Marlene’s. Catering to the fashion crowd, vintage and art lovers, the retailer’s assortment appeals to those who appreciate that kind of individuality, Moses said. With everything being so “topsy-turvy right now,” she decided to start out small.

To get things rolling, Moses is offering 15 handpainted vintage bags. Louis Vuitton, Margiela, Paco Rabanne, Ferragamo and other designer finds from the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties have been repurposed with her art. Aside from preserving and upcycling, the project combines fashion and art, creating what Moses considers is the ultimate “It” bag, in that it is so rare that no one else can have it.

All of the bags are meant to be ones that have endured, and several are painted on both the front and the back sides. The bags can be dual-purpose and are meant to be worn on the buyer’s shoulder or hanging as art from one of the walls of his or her home. Staying creative during the pandemic is essential and this project encompasses upcycling, intelligent design, and the combination of art and design. “Those are all interesting issues right now,” said Moses, adding that she always wears vintage bags. “The new ‘It’ bag is the one-of-a-kind. If you think about the price of [designer] bags today and you could buy a bag that only you owned, there is something magical about that.”

Marlene’s black-and-white striped store with a pink ceiling on 25th Street in Manhattan is a jewel, according to Moses. Her handbags are mixed in with the retailer’s assortment of “first-class vintage” apparel and accessories from Dior, Valentino, Geoffrey Beene, Bonnie Cashin, Zandra Rhodes and others.

While major stores are facing real challenges in the pandemic, retail was already bad before, due partially to the number of collections designers churn out annually, Moses said. “Right now everybody in every sector connected to fashion has to rethink [what they are doing]. If they haven’t paused and thought about it in this past year, I don’t know when they’re going to think about it,” she said. “…The entire creative process is going to have to be rethought. I’m not saying that what I’m doing is the answer. There is so much creative energy out there. They are going to have to think of more creative ways of making retail more exciting, making design more exciting by getting more exclusivity and exposing designers who really have a voice.”

To that end, she has been encouraging her Instagram followers to support small businesses, which is where they will find new talent. “Those are the people who are really holding on and struggling right now. It’s a great moment for people to see things from another angle,” Moses said.