Growing up in New Hampshire, Cassandra Severino and her three sisters began riding at an early age. As a teenager, she slowly drifted away from horses before finding a passion for sustainable fashion. In 2017, Cassandra taught herself to sew using secondhand textiles from a friend’s upholstery business. From there Cassandra created Calyse, a sustainable handbag company that repurposes equestrian tack and antique hardware within their designs.
With high standards for leather quality, Calyse chooses to keep colors neutral to ensure the bags are practical for everyday use. Cassandra relies on donations from equestrians such as her former trainer and sister, a professional based out of Massachusetts. Connections with a local tack shop have proved valuable, as they have provided her with unsellable saddles due to defects like broken trees. To supplement donations, Calyse sources additional leather from a factory that may otherwise discard it, for reasons such as imperfections or completion of a color run.
At any given time, Calyse has bundles of equestrian tack on hand. To find inspiration for a new piece, Cassandra may look through the collection and pick out individual items, before giving each piece of leather a good cleaning to strip away old grease and gunk. Among the items used within bag designs at Calyse, halters and bridles are the most common. She has used everything from saddles and brow bands, down to small leather keepers. Additionally, Calyse makes custom designs using a customer’s sentimental leather, such as a special horse’s halter or a favorite pair of boots. Although she builds and sells many bags of the same style, each one is beautifully unique as they are all made from different pieces of leather.
Calyse packages products to look like vintage mail, using sturdy brown craft paper tied together with twine. Products are shipped within a cardboard box that latches itself without the need for plastic tape and sent within a compostable mailing bag. Sticking with her company’s goal of sustainability, Cassandra herself enjoys thrifting and avoids fast fashion due to the social and environmental costs.
To support a small business by purchasing sustainable equestrian accessories, visit the Calyse website. Follow @calyse.co on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on the latest designs and view unique pieces.