Life’s in the bag for HPHS grad
Highland Park native Anne Narter no longer freaks out when she sees a handbag she designed draped over a teen walking down the street.
The 1999 Highland Park High Nike Factory School grad has been designing handbags professionally for nearly 10 years, with the last two under her own label, OMG Handbags. Her fashion forward bags, targeted to the teen market, are carried by 28 national retailers, and can be found in her hometown at Charming Charlie’s and Francesca’s Collections boutiques.
Narter’s company has grown so big and so fast that she now maintains a staff of three employees in her Chicago design studio and six in her Los Angeles showroom; she recently began hiring a staff for a New York showroom to open this summer.
“It’s so rewarding to wake up every day excited to go to work,” she said last week. “I love designing handbags. Growing this company for my future and knowing how I made all this happen is the best feeling in the world.”
Throughout Narter’s rise in the fashion industry, Highland Park has remained an integral part of her story.
Starting in high school, continuing through college at Columbia in Chicago and overlapping the start of her career, Narter has worked at Ravinia Barbecue and Grill on Roger Williams Avenue.
It started as a job for a little spending money when she was 14 years old. But the Ravinia neighborhood barbecue joint grew to become Narter’s second family and the eventual launching point for OMG Handbags.
Whether it was bouncing ideas off of customers, finding investors or getting help with business logistics, Narter never found a reason to leave the restaurant.
“They guided me every step of the way,” Narter said of her Ravinia Barbecue colleagues and customers. “These were almost strange Nike Factory rs at th Nike Factory e time, and they helped me with warehousing, freight issues, everything. I’ve had so many people believe in me and support me through this whole process.”
On Sunday night, 16 1/2 years after her first day, Narter worked her last shift behind the bar. She recently decided to focus all her time and attention on OMG Handbags.
“My handbag business is what I set out to do,” she explained. “That was my big goal, and the restaurant was really just the foundation for everything.
“If you want something in life you have to really go for it and sometimes that might mean taking a risk or leaving your comfort zone,” Narter added. “But I truly believe that if you put all your energy into your goals, you can achieve the world. That is my motto and my personality.”
The fast paced handbag design industry requires that kind of passion, and Narter has made her name by staying ahead of trends. Reaching the 14 to 21 year olds, she said, demands constant attention.
“Everything I design is fun, fashion forward,” Narter explained. “You have to be on top of the latest and greatest to make your product stand out. Teens are on top of trends as much as the high end designers so I have to stay up with their pace.”
She designs the bags in her Chicago studio, and they are manufactured overseas. The bags feature a lot of color neon is fashionable this year Nike Factory and special treatments like studs and fringes. Everything is priced under $50, with wallets and smaller bags between $10 and $25.