Sandra Reiman with Sofia Clutch

Beautiful leather, well-crafted, has a way of taking on a life of its own.

This is certainly true for Sandra Cadavid and her line of luxurious leather satchels, clutches and handbags. Her brand recently earned a place at one of the most prestigious trunk shows in the country, Henri Bendel’s flagship store in New York City.

A Pittsburgh designer, Sandra left PNC and launched her line in 2011, encouraged by her supportive husband, Sam Reiman, who believed in her lifelong dream of being a fashion designer. He was equally instrumental, she says, in coaxing her to pack up a few select pieces last February to audition for the trunk show.

Standing in a long line in the icy cold, with other designer hopefuls, she began to despair. To pass the time, she formulated in her mind how she might at least slip an executive her card. The situation was tense, like something out of “American Idol,” she says.

“I watched people get turned away left and right.”

At least 1000 people passed by the panel in a matter of three hours. Many were flicked away like fleas. “Then I got up there and pulled out my red attaché,” she says. “And they loved it.”

She’s been pinching herself ever since.

Many in Pittsburgh are familiar with Sandra’s distinctive, classic designs, cut from custom-dyed, alta gamma leather in shades of brown, black, cognac and white. The line is manufactured in the 500-year old fortress city of Cartagena, Columbia, near where she grew up, and handcrafted by local artisans.

The Henri Bendel Spring Trunk Show will be held April 24-27 and is open to the public. Pittsburghers are encouraged to attend the event which is known to attract its share of celebrities.

Can’t make it? A Pittsburgh Trunk Show will be held in celebration of their return on May 1 at the Proper Brick Oven downtown from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Sandra mentions that a Henri Bendel executive was the one who supposedly “discovered” Andy Warhol back in the day. Who knows where this could lead?

“Our life is in Pittsburgh,” Sandra insists with a laugh. “I just want to keep designing beautiful things, whether we end up in a great partnership with the store or not. It has been amazing to do what I really love.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...