From the Archives: Summer 2005 Issue of Lupus Now
Circle of Hope: Handbags That Dreams Are Made Of
By Mary Medland
When Hollywood celebrities like Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, or Paris Hilton make appearances at glitzy events, there’s usually one accessory they never leave home—a MOO ROO handbag designed by Mary Norton. Norton has refused to let lupus stop her from adding sparkle to the wardrobes of a long list of celebrities, as well as everyday fashionable women across the globe.
“I was diagnosed with lupus just after the birth of my second daughter in February 1998,” says Norton from her home
in Charleston, SC. “But in retrospect, I think I actually had the disease before my older daughter was born. At that time I’d get terrible rashes after I’d been in the sun, but I just assumed that was an allergic reaction to sunscreen.”
Initially, after her diagnosis, things began to fall apart. “One night I went to bed and said this prayer, ‘God, I don’t know what you want of me. I don’t know what to do,’ ” Norton says. “That night I had a dream about three handbags made from floral fabric.”
The next day Norton, who worked for nearly 10 years in the film industry, sat down at her dining room table with her sewing machine and created three purses. Shortly there-after her babysitter, who also managed a small store in Charleston, was so taken by the bags that she asked for the opportunity to put them in the boutique.
“The three bags sold in 45 minutes,” Norton says, “and signaled the birth of sides my children and
MOO (my daughter Micah’s nickname) ROO (my daughter Reilly’s nickname).”
MOO ROO was instant success. In a matter of five months, Norton had moved her “workshop” from her dining room to a small office. And in 1999, she attended her first trade show at the Javits Center in New York City and returned home with $65,000 in handbag orders.
MOO ROO bags are now sold in more than 300 boutiques and specialty stores worldwide and retail from $425
to $1,300. The glorious fabric Norton uses can cost her as much as $300 a yard.
“I choose my materials for the bags in many ways,” she says. “I am a huge Internet surfer…and get lots of ideas for new materials via the Web. I also have my favorite haunts for fabrics, furs, feathers, all over the world.”
“When I design a bag, we only make about 25 of them,” Norton continues. “MOO ROO is very much a limited-edition enterprise.”
Norton says a lot of her creative ideas come from dreams and prayer. “I keep a pad by my bed and am often woken up with dreams and ideas for bags. I also get a lot of ideas and inspiration from old movies. I’m a huge movie buff and love to see the glory of old costume design. My current obsession is the fashion from the old [Peter Sellers] Pink Panther movies.”
Norton is now looking for a strategic partner to free up time for her to concentrate more on the creative side of the business. “For me, the creative process is incredibly therapeutic. Not only does the actual activity of creating relax me, but when I am really in a creative mode, my lupus symptoms seem to be greatly reduced. Being able to sit and create is the greatest gift, besides my children and husband, that I’ve ever been given.”
To read more about MOO ROO designer handbags or to shop online, visit the website at www.mooroo.com.