Sent From Mars creates stunning subtle geeky bags and it’s just the beginning
By Lisa Granshaw
Mari Ruiz was always interested in design and went to fashion design school right out of high school. She started working for companies like Old Navy and Gymboree, but while working for them discovered the work she was doing wasn’t what she thought it would be. Ruiz quit after a few years and then started her own company so she could do things her way, have fun making what she liked, and create products she couldn’t find anywhere else.
That company became Sent From Mars, which offers handmade bags with a geeky spin. Ruiz decided to focus on bags because it’s an item she uses every day and she could never find anything she liked.
“The first one that I started with was a Han Solo-inspired one. That was the first one I put on my Etsy store and I sold it pretty quickly and I was like ‘oh wow that’s really cool,’” Ruiz told GeekFold. “I started coming up with new ideas and growing it from fabric that I had on hand, thinking what can I make out of this? It just grew from there.”
Each of the handmade bags take about a week to make from starting with the idea to finishing it. When creating a new bag, she first determines if the concept can be made with her sewing machine and what she currently has on hand. She looks to the part of the character or item inspiring her to decide on the design of her bags.
“If I look at the Han Solo one, I always liked his jacket and I thought it would look cool to put the belt on the bottom and to see how I can incorporate things like studs and gems mixed with whatever it is that I’m coming up with. It’s a lot of things all together that I’m putting in consideration,” Ruiz explained. “The design, what kind of materials I have, and how I can embellish it a little bit to make it look sparkly because that’s something I always like to do with my stuff is make it look sparkly.”
While most of Ruiz’s bags are still handmade by her, over the last year she’s taken the larger step of working with a manufacturer for two of her designs. It’s something she’s wanted to do since before starting Sent From Mars. Ruiz told GeekFold she was familiar with the manufacturing process because she worked in that area with factories overseas when she was at other companies and she always thought she’d like to someday use that process for her own products. She finally took the step last year for two reasons. One was the birth of her daughter.
“I really wanted to have them launch before I had her because I thought it would be really cool to be a good inspiration for her that you can accomplish things so I had that driving me and then my brother passed away in 2016 and he was my best friend. He was a huge part of Sent From Mars because I would go over all my ideas with him and stuff like that and right before he passed away I had started looking into getting things manufactured and I was able to share that part with him, the opportunity to start doing that,” she said. “I wanted to do that for him, for my daughter, and I felt like it was just time and I thought I should do something that kind of scared me and go for it. I’m really glad that I did because now that I’ve accomplished that little part it’s going to make new things a lot easier.”
The step wasn’t without its challenges. Ruiz shared with GeekFold that at the start she asked what percentage of bags might arrive with flaws and was told the bags would all be 100 percent perfect. Unfortunately, half of the bags for one of the two designs were messed up and she couldn’t sell them.
“That was super frustrating. I literally went through every single bag that had come in which took me a week around Christmas so it was super stressful for a lot of reasons, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that and that was a big learning experience. Everything’s fine, but that definitely threw me off because I wasn’t expecting such a big error like that,” Ruiz said. “It sucks because the bags that were perfect looked so good and they were great and I was really happy with how they turned out, but then to have half of them be messed up was pretty shocking.”
One of the manufactured designs was the Take the World by Storm purse. The bag (disclosure: this bag was provided by Sent From Mars for review) is inspired by a Star Wars Stormtrooper, but it’s design is subtle. It’s made of faux leather and features gunmetal studs. The bag felt incredibly sturdy as I tried to pack it with all the essentials I usually carry around and I was impressed with its size. The inside is lined with a star print and includes one zipper pocket. Not only does it come with a wristlet strap, but there’s also a longer strap so you can wear it other ways. Both straps have silver lining on the inside. The overall look is a creative, abstract design that would add just the right amount of subtle Star Wars to any outfit and for this sample at least, the manufacturer did a great job of bringing Ruiz’s vision to life with impressive quality.
Even with what happened though, Ruiz would have looked into manufacturing sooner. It’s something new geek fashion designers might want to consider along with keeping in mind the power of being consistent, according to Ruiz. Those are two things she wishes she had been thinking about more when starting out. Considering how much the geek fashion field is growing in so many ways, it’s good advice. There are more options now for geek apparel and accessories than ever before and Ruiz has seen a huge shift in the industry over the years.
“I feel like before, it was limited to T-shirts really and everything I think was kind of obvious so I like that there’s so many new products and so many new companies that are interested in it,” she said. “Then there are things a little subtler and not so in your face that are really cool.”
Ruiz will be continuing to add to the growing field, and not just when it comes to bags. She recently introduced a pin and leggings to her shop for the first time. Ruiz said the pin was relatively easy to create and not a big investment.
“I like to illustrate things so I thought [the pin] was a really fun way to turn an illustration into something that somebody could have as a piece of fandom for something that they liked,” she said. “Then for the leggings, I also like making prints and leggings are something I would personally wear almost every day so I thought that would be a fun one to add to my shop. I do plan on adding more for sure. I’m just kind of tiptoeing my way into more products right now.”
This year Ruiz wants to offer a lot of products other than bags as well as offer more manufactured bags. The next manufactured design will probably be coming out at the end of March.
Considering Ruiz’s bags already stand out amid the other geeky bag options out there, as Sent From Mars expands and continues to add to the increasing number of geek fashion offerings available it will be no surprise if the other products she offers do the same.
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