After moving from Olympia, Washington, to Portland in 2003, Michelle Kline wanted to make some quick cash. To bring in the green, the designer created several leather handbags to sell at a local holiday bazaar.
One of Kline’s bags ended up in Seattle, on the shoulder of a woman who wore it through the doors of a now-defunct Capitol Hill boutique. The shop owner, looking to stock more trend-forward products, contacted Kline in the hopes of carrying her collection. Without so much as a production sewing setup or website, Kline took on her first wholesale account and jumped headfirst into the world of product design and manufacturing..
Kline’s brand, xobruno, is a tribute to her maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Bruno. Her grandmother taught her how to crochet, embroider, and sew as child, and Kline credits her as a large influencer of her current pursuits.
In March, Kline moved again—this time from Northeast Portland to a larger studio in the Burnside neighborhood. Her new ground-level space features a small showroom with a work studio in the back, along with big windows that let in plenty of natural light. “I’ve always wanted a little shop,” Kline says, “so the change was for the best. I couldn’t be happier.”
Each xobruno bag is made with hand-cut whole leather hides. They are designed to be classic yet rugged and practical. xobruno’s current collection is composed of 10 handbags, as well as several styles of wallets, pouches, and cases for both men and women.
“Cutting into leather hide is like a game of Tetris,” Kline says of her creation process. “Each hide is different in size and shape so I have to consider the entire piece before cutting into it. I lay out the varying pattern pieces in a way to get the most use out of the material and to avoid large amounts of waste.”