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Bags For Your Bucket List

By Jennifer McKee  Photos courtesy of Leigh Ann Barnes


Clear bags used to be boring — until Leigh Ann Barnes started designing them.

Barnes’ antidote to the clear-bag blues? Carry your NCAA- and NFL-approved clear bag into the stadium, then dress it up later with a stylish leather cover.

And with approximately 100 different embellishments, she’ll help you make that cover unmistakably you. 

Clear bags are a way of life at every major college and pro-sports stadium; they allow for greater security and quick scans of each bag’s contents. At UGA, all bags carried into Sanford Stadium must be clear and not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.” 

At Barnes’ studio, you can customize one of three bags: an envelope clutch, barrel crossbody or bucket bag. The key to the system is the bags’ snaps, which allow users to decorate them with leather covers and other materials such as fringe, pom-poms and mesh.

“The design process happens when I’m creating something I want to give somebody,” says Barnes, whose first bag was a reversible clutch made of Italian leather she made for her cousin. “I realized I could use my God-given talents to create products for others. It’s where I find my joy.”

Later, when the clear-bag policy came into effect, Barnes saw a greater and greater demand for her stylish yet functional design. 

Her newest line allows for even greater versatility; a new alignment of the snaps allows owners of any bag style to interchange covers between them.

“The best thing about the new line is that there’s no waste — you don’t have to discard [previously used] covers or other bags,” says Barnes. “It all stems from what the customer wants and needs.” 

Barnes’ products don’t just help you look good, they make you feel great — her VIP Survivor program helps women coming out of domestic violence situations sustain themselves by making accessories such as earrings and hair ties from scrap leather and selling them at Barnes’ shops in Athens and Los Angeles. 

“The VIP program is nearest and dearest to my heart,” says Barnes. “I wanted to use the remnants and scraps [from my products] to create jobs for women in need. That opens up the door for us to create additional products and be sustainable at the same time.”

“Sustainability is important to me,” she added. “I’ve always repurposed excess materials.”

Barnes recently revamped her Athens studio to allow her customers the opportunity to play to their hearts’ content, to “let yourself be free to play and create.” Look for a grand opening this fall, pop-ups and special gameday events around football season. 

Fun embellishments to look for include:

• Cheerleaders’ pom-poms

• Fringe, fringe and more fringe

• Vinyl cutouts

• Bulldog lapel pins

• Quilted Georgia Gs 

For more information and inspiration, visit