Handbags by Susan; 61st MMB (Prov) spouse finds niche

Story by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th SC(E) Public Affairs

For those who can't get enough of the Battle Dress Uniform, Desert Combat Uniform and the new Army Combat Uniform design, Susan Gallego, wife of 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion (Provisional) Command Sergeant Major, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Jairo Gallego, has found her niche and created a fashion trend that has many yearning for just that.

Gallego abandoned her previous line of work to become a full time handbag designer; designing and customizing handbags made of the BDU, DCU and ACU pattern, an idea she first got from a handbag she saw on Ft. Hood.

"I saw something similar to my handbags over a year ago," said Gallego. "The purse only had one pocket throughout and I knew I could do this with more detail, different styles and different sizes," she said pointing out that her bags are fully customized to customer's specifications.

After spotting what would later become her passion, Gallego decided she would design and customize her own handbag.

"After my husband deployed I made my first bag and it kept me busy," Gallego said. "Then I decided to make one as a gift for one of my neighbors and it just took off like wildfire, people where stopping her everywhere asking her where she had it made." "People asked me where I got my handbag and it just went from there," she said stating that her business quickly expanded outside the confines of Ft. Hood and Killeen.

Gallego said she acted quickly and ordered business cards and her business sky rocketed.

"Just by business cards and word of mouth, I've been shipping orders to Ft. Drum, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Lewis, Ft. Stuart and Ohio," said Gallego. "They are spreading out everywhere."

While she appreciates the many requests and the business she has received, Gallego said she is a bit reluctant to advertise her business on the World Wide Web.

"If I go on a website, I will have to hire someone to help me, because right now, or on any given day, I receive twelve orders coming in," said Gallego, acknowledging that such a dilemma is a fortunate one. "The least amount of orders I get coming in daily is about five per day, and that is without me checking my email. I get email orders also."

It would lead many to believe that Gallego is ludicrous to leave so much money on the table, but Gallego says not so, she designs and makes handbags because it's fun and it gives some customers so much joy.

"It's pretty awesome and I love it because it's a lot of fun," said Gallego. "Each bag is designed different and it's pretty neat."

Gallego began to receive request from military spouses from all over the country to design and make handbags from uniforms worn by their loved ones.

"I have made several bags for wives who have lost a (servicemember) in Iraq and it was very touching," she said. "They sometimes cry when I deliver the bags because it's a little memory they can keep with them all the time. It's very touching for a lot these military wives," she said. "It's something that they can keep close by them and have them by their side when they are not home." "I had a few tell me they put their purse in bed beside them and slept with it all night long."

Gallego said that military wives are not the only ones placing orders, there are men who have placed just as many orders as the women according to Gallego.

"I get guys calling to order bags as gifts for their wives," she said.

Guys call and ask for diaper bags, tote bags, messenger bags and even back packs Gallego said.

"Guys, (whose spouse are pregnant), like carrying the diaper bag because it's not girly or juvenile," Gallego said. "I think that's cool and they're calling and ordering."

Gallego takes pride in her detailing and the customization of each bag she produces she said.

"I do a lot more customized detail on the bags I make," said Gallego, as opposed to the other bags that she's seen on post that mirror hers. "I will dress them up as far as the beaded fringe, the different color fringe, different trims on them, the name tapes are whatever the customer desires," said Gallego.

Some of the tapes Gallego has put on various bags include: Army princess, Army babe, Army angel, proud Army wife, Army mother-in-law, proud Army mom and retired Army wife.

Gallego said her passion for sewing stemmed from many days spent sewing with her grandmother. As a preadolescent girl under her grandmother's tutelage she learned arts and crafts developing a talent for embroidery and bringing to life a once dormant imagination according to Gallego.

"My grandmother was a seamstress all her life and I learned how to sew from her," Gallego said. "I've been sewing since I was 11 years old and I actually worked with her at her business for four years while I was in college part time."

Gallego later received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, but knew that her true calling was always fashion or design.

"I've always been hands on crafts type person," said Gallego. "I've done jewelry and beading before and I was in that business for a while. I kind of knew that when I was in high school I would become a designer or interior decorator."

"I guess I kind of found my common ground here after all," she said.


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