Breck & Grier’s Summer It Bags Have Greenwich Roots

 


Breck & Grier

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Riverside native Phebe Grier Huth had graduated from college with a communications degree and started a new job. Her sister, Elizabeth Breckinridge (“Brecky,” or “Breck,” for short), was graduating with a business degree that spring. After being furloughed, Phebe pondered what to do with her time and creative energy. Her mom suggested, “Everyone loves your bags.” The year before, Phebe had designed two handpainted bags as gifts for friends who were graduating a year ahead of her at Furman University in South Carolina.

left: Phebe toting a handpainted Mimi clutch – Photograph: Carter Fish; right: The Phebe Backpack

Soon the sisters had transformed the family’s basement into a studio “with bags everywhere and paint everywhere,” says Phebe, who was 23 at the time. “Our friends and Mom [an event planner] would help us paint. It really took off. It was a happy accident.” She built a website, and the demand for the “Brecky” tote soon outgrew their little cottage industry. Phebe turned to her entrepreneurial dad for advice on scaling the business, which began with revamping the site. She recalls, “He said, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? You fail?’”

Soon Breck & Grier offered styles from clutches to backpacks, which take you from farmer’s market to brunch to beach to date night. The bags are handwoven from palm leaves by artisans in Marrakech.

“The factory we work with is all women. It’s run by women, it only employs women, and oftentimes in their home, so that they can care for their children,” explains Phebe, who values ethics and sustainability. She adds, “All leather in the new collection is vegan leather, which also helps with durability.” The brand has been involved in some collaborations benefitting breast cancer and has more in the works.

left: The Abby Crossbody Mini Tote – Photograph: Mary Everard; right: The Ridgely Tote – Photograph: Elizabeth Cox

While some of Breck & Grier’s recent lines are not painted, the popular original collection is still handpainted—by Phebe in Charleston, South Carolina, where she has been living for the past couple of years. The Brecky tote is still the bestseller. Breck helped until the pandemic lifted and she could commence her job search. “She still helps me do spreadsheets,” says Phebe, who spends half her time doing social media consulting for female-owned businesses and half her time on the “fun and therapeutic” Breck & Grier.

Recently Phebe had a stranger tap her on her shoulder and ask if she was carrying a Breck & Grier bag. “I was carrying the Emily,” recounts Phebe. “I said, ‘Yes, and I’m Grier!’ That has never happened. I work by myself, for myself. It can be lonely, so that was cool.”

Phebe was on one of her frequent trips to Greenwich for this interview and felt the rewards of looking in the rearview mirror at the back of her car, packed with totes and thinking, “I did this.”

The Pia Tote – Photograph: Elizabeth Cox

Along with fashion, travel is one of Phebe’s design inspirations. “It’s hard for me to sit still. I was in Italy this summer, and all the blues and the waves—a lot of the logos are coastal-inspired,” she says. “That’s what drew me to the wave of our new Wave collection. I thought, how can I get that on a bag? We also spend a lot of time on the water. My family is in Riverside, near the water, right next to the yacht club. I use my straw tote year-round. It’s a summer bag for a lot of people, but it’s just such a pretty material.”

What’s ahead? “We will be expanding the Wave collection in a few more colors—light blue and dark brown—and adding a few new styles, including a clutch. For fall, we are looking at some new materials, hopefully canvas, leather and a few others. Painting will always be the heart of the business, but I’m only one human, and I’m also a control freak, so I can’t scale that part,” she says, chuckling. “The goal is that Breck & Grier is a very happy, easy-to-wear brand, and we want to be accessible. I’m 27 and can’t afford a designer brand oftentimes.”

The line ranges from the Quinn Mini Tote ($45) to the Ridgely Tote ($200). Most bags ship the next business day. Custom-painted bags can take three to four weeks (but often arrive sooner).

 

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