To Dye For

Shara Porter gives vintage accessories fresh purpose.


When scouring thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay for vintage leather goods, Shara Porter isn’t looking for clothes; she’s looking for canvases. The New Bedford accessories designer puts each of her finds through an elaborate cleaning and dying process, then handprints them with whimsical images such as blenders, dinosaurs, and moose. "It’s about seeing potential in something that’s been discarded and making it your own," says the 37-year-old former waitress, who earned an M.F.A. from UMass Dartmouth.

Since it launched about two years ago, Porter’s eponymous collection, which includes reworked clutches, boots, and coin purses ($40–$100), has been picked up locally by fashion-forward shops such as Parlor, and also by upscale stores in cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco. To keep up with the volume of orders streaming in, Porter rehabs nearly 150 bags, wallets, and shoes a month. "I really like the simplicity," she says, "of making do with what you have."