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Fashionable Baggage: Kent Stetson

(Image courtesy of Kent Stetson)

Once you become a dog owner, you become instantly drawn to products the feature dogs. Before Oliver, I never thought I would be the person wearing "Dog Mom" hats or "paw"fection shirts. Since getting my dog, I realized that many businesses try to sell consumers punny attire or tchotchkes. In a sea of cliche, Kent Stetson stands as a lighthouse guiding chic dog lovers to high-quality bags not only featuring their pup but also can reflect their style. Stetson, a classically trained artist, creates custom bags that can pay homage to your dog, favorite tv-show, or cultural icon. While I first saw Stetson's dog work, I went to his website and was in awe of how he transformed bags into art. I had the chance to interview Kent to learn more about his company.

(Image courtesy of Kent Stetson)

1. What would be the proper terminology be for your products?

I like things that exist in gray areas where it's hard to identify exactly what it is. But for the most part, my collectors think of these products as art pieces. I consider them art, but I'm happy with people calling it whatever they decide they wish. I began using paintings and digital paintings on the bag; then, I incorporated photographs and different themes into pieces. The bags today are most of my commercial work.

(Video courtesy of Kent Stetson)

2. How did you begin your business?

When I started the line 18 years ago, I was a traditional fine artist. I was working in New Media making computer-generated paintings after graduating from Brown University. I discovered that my pieces sold better as a bag than they did as a wall accessory. With this new format as a bag, I realized that the pieces become much more interactive and, therefore, more interesting. Since opening, all of my production for the bags is in-house from inception to completion.

(Image courtesy of Kent Stetson)

3. What makes art a piece of art that you create a timeless art piece?

I'm not dead set on things being timeless, and I believe that art can have the purpose of being very much of a moment and connected to ephemeral. When I'm making new pieces, and something happens that merits being translated into a bag, we can do it instantly. A great example of this was when Bernie Sanders was sitting at the 2021 inauguration with his mittens; we had a bag of that meme that afternoon. So, it doesn't need to be timeless; it can capture a split-second moment. That weekend, we sold a ton of the Bernie Sanders piece.

(Video courtesy of Kent Stetson)

4. How do you infuse your mission and your vision into the products that you sell?

The essence of my business is a very relatable story where sometimes things don't work out the way you had anticipated. But if you are willing to connect the dots with other items in your life, sometimes you end up with a better result. The greater mission is to create art in unexpected places.

(Image courtesy of Kent Stetson)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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