Designer handbags right on Shrewsbury Street
By Jennifer Russo
One thing I really love is finding something that’s one-of-a-kind. When something is made by hand, you are guaranteed to own something that has its own signature. No two are exactly the same. Why buy a handbag made in a factory by a machine when you could have something lovingly made by someone who is passionate about the craft?
C.A.S Handmade, which recently opened a studio storefront on Shrewsbury Street, is an experience you won’t easily forget. And with prices that are a complete steal for the quality you are getting, I’d recommend stopping in every time you need a thoughtful and unique gift for someone or want to treat yourself to something new.
Jason and Cara DesJardins are the perfect husband and wife team. Jason, who has expertise in retail, and Cara, who loves to create, decided it was time to dive into their passion for fashion and art and run a business together. It began in their basement, and they worked hard to open a retail location. Lucky Worcester had the perfect home for them to set up shop.
“Cara was working for five years at Hasbro as a soft goods engineer… making bags on the side was one of her passions. I talked her into quitting her job. We took the last of our savings out and bought her a leather machine and got picked up by Ann Taylor after six months,” Jason said. “We were also a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Contest in 2016. Now, we have an open studio, over 60 accounts nationally, and we do many of the top fine-craft shows in the country.”
In addition to the handbags Cara makes (which are fabulous, by the way), the store carries items from about 15 artists the couple has met at various craft shows. They have pottery, jewelry, soap, candles, wood crafts and more. A leather shop, boutique and high-end gift store? Perfect.
Cara has mastered the art of setting her own trends while being influenced by the fashion scene, a feat that is not easily accomplished. Instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach and copying what other designers have done, she allows trends from around the world to inspire her as she comes up with her own signature ideas. She recently finished her designs for spring of next year, so she is definitely ahead of the game.
C.A.S. can be found in stores across the globe. In Massachusetts alone, the products can be found in 17 different boutiques. The Cross Country bag is my personal favorite, as I really love the tote-style bags. However, The Foldover is the most popular bag at C.A.S. and was Cara’s first design after college – the one that put them on the map.
“It’s our signature bag,” Jason said. “It’s very simple and practical.”
Now, C.A.S is working with RAW to buy hand-woven material from Kenyan refugees living in Worcester. They take the material (which they buy at full cost) and make bags from it.
“We are so excited to be a part of the Worcester community,” Jason said. “Worcester is trending in such a good way through culinary talent and art. We have become very involved with Worcester StART, Candace from the Worcester Craft Center, and the Worcester Women’s Group. There is a lot going on here, and we are just so proud to be a part of it.”
You can find C.A.S at 174 Shrewsbury St., Worcester. The store is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. For more information, visit cas-handmade.com.