No ifs, ands, or butts about it, the fanny pack is back.
The polarizing pouch — long associated with frumpy, middle-aged tourists — is now a utilitarian fashion statement.
Just ask Brooke LaGrand, the owner of PACKPACK, a Pittsburgh-based company that is breathing new life into belt bags.
For 10 years, LaGrand worked in New York City as a pattern maker, sourcing materials and helping designers bring their artistic visions to life. During that time, she dodged a lot of fanny packin’ sightseers on the Big Apple’s busy streets.
While fumbling to find her belongings in an oversized purse, she wondered if maybe these folks were on to something.
“I realized fanny packs are dope and smart and can be cute,” she says. “And physiologically, carrying something around the waist is so much better for our bodies.”
LaGrand launched the PACKPACK accessory brand in January, just before moving to Mount Washington with her husband and two kids. At first, the busy mom made pint-size fanny packs so her little ones could gain independence by carrying their own toys, snacks and newfound treasures.
She sold PACKPACK products online and at various places around town, including love, Pittsburgh and the Lawrenceville Pop-Up Market, where shoppers asked her to create ones they could wear. Now there’s a whole army of Fanny Fashionistas in the Steel City.
The practical purses are custom-printed on organic duck canvas, which is heavy, plain-weave cotton fabric. They are machine washable and locally made by workers from the East End Cooperative Ministry and Why Sew Workshop.
With the yuletide season looming, LaGrand is busy preparing for craft shows, including Handmade Arcade on Dec. 4 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. She also joined Style 412, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening Pittsburgh’s fashion industry.
LaGrand says watching her kids explore the world and store tiny keepsakes in their PACKPACKs reminds her to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. At pop-up markets, she asks customers to put something meaningful in their PACKPACK as a reminder to do the same.