Enid Collins: An Interview with her Son, Jeep

I’m very pleased to be able to share with you an interview with Jeep Collins, the son of famed handbag designer and maker, Enid Collins.

*  How did Collins of Texas get its start?

Soon after World War II Frederic and Enid Collins came to Texas  and bought a small ranch close to the town of Medina.   Struggling to make a living as ranchers they began to use their talents and training to make things they could sell.  Enid studied fashion design and fine art at Texas Woman’s University and Frederic studied engineering at the University of Michigan and was also a sculptor.  Together they began to make leather handbags which she designed and he built on their kitchen table.  Frederic sculpted brass ornaments for the handbags.

* How were ideas for new designs developed?  Did Enid work as the sole designer?

She was the primary designer but Fred was also creative and had input especially in the ornaments.  He was good at figuring out how to make things, first by hand and later when he built the factory he invented various jigs to make production easier.  His father’s father was in the carriage building business in Michigan and his father invented things used in the early auto industry.

* My favorites are the box bags.  Did Collins of Texas make the wooden boxes used as the handbag base?

At first they had someone make the boxes.  When suddenly that source dried up Fred quickly acquired a large tent, until he could build a workshop, bought  woodworking equipment and began producing them himself.  The stock number prefix for the box bags was HH which stood for “high hopes.”  The success of the box bags was a major step in the growth of the company.

* I know Collins was a family business.  How were the Collins children involved in it?

Cynthia and I both worked summers in production.  Later Cynthia modeled for a series of ads run in The New Yorker.  She later went to Puerto Rico to train workers there in the factory.

*  What were some of the most unusual bags produced?

The early leather ones were very unusual.

* What were some of the most popular designs?

“Money Tree” comes to mind.  Enid did so many designs.  Every season she would have new ones ready to come out.

*  Over the years I’ve found some unusual Collins of Texas items.  What are some of the things, other than handbags, that the company produced?

Early on they made whatever they could sell.  Frederic made bronze horse sculptures, bronze ashtrays (I have one of these from his maternal grandfather’s business, Alamo Explosives), and other bronze items.  They also made leather belts with brass ornaments, leather sandals, papier mache mirror frames, paperie mache waste baskets, and papier mache broches.

*  How big a problem were knock-offs and copycats?  Did Collins of Texas ever try to take action against any of these copiers?

There was always much business discussion at home and I remember my mother especially discussing it but I do not think there was ever any action taken.  Their philosophy was to always stay ahead with new things coming out constantly.

*  Did the company copyright the designs?  I know there is a copyright symbol on some bags under the “ec” signature.

Yes

*  I’ve read that the business was sold to Tandy in 1970, with Enid continuing to work for them for a short while.  What happened to end this arrangement?

The company took a new direction not wanting to be dependant on any one designer.  This was difficult for her as a person because she built the company and now had to let others run it a different way.  Being semi-retired she then began to use her artistic talents in other things: ceramics, painting, stitchery, and other media.

* And, most importantly, was a bag with a Scotty dog motif ever produced (please say yes!)?

Quite possibly, but I can’t say for sure.

A very big thank you to Jeep, and to his son Christian Collins for arranging the interview.  Jeep is a jewelry designer and maker.  Christian has a website dedicated to all things Enid Collins. 

And I’m still looking for that Collins of Texas Scotty bag!

Photo of Enid Collins in her studio courtesy of Christian Collins.

29 Comments

Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

29 responses to “Enid Collins: An Interview with her Son, Jeep

  1. Such a helpful post – and I am amazed at the interviews you get! So there’s leather goods out there from Enid Collins? I never knew that.

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  2. How great to read this interview, and learn more about the production aspects. Those Collins sites are nice too!

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  3. High Hopes! how cool is that?!! and how wonderful is this interview!! thanks Lizzie!! love this!!!

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  4. Mary Jane

    What a great interview, Lizzie. It’s quite amazing how much we can learn when reading these personal interview sessions about the people who created these items that we are familiar with and yet don’t have that much background on. I learned quite a bit here too, I had no clue leather products were produced either.

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  5. Mesuki

    I love Enid Collins bags! I’ve collected quite a few over the years. Thanks for this amazing article, it sheds light on the woman behind these wonderful bags!

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  6. Great interview, I love the Enid Collins bags, those wooden box bags are fantastic!

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  7. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful insight into Collins of Texas. I knew very little but had seen the bags of course. It just goes to show what amazing things can happen when two artistic people get together and create something unique.

    I was also very interested to hear about how Fred used his engineering background to invent jigs to make production easier. Practical and creative! 🙂

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  8. GREAT interview and information!

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  9. It’s always such a pleasure to learn the back history on a collectible brand, especially with such a beloved and family run business, as Collins of Texas.

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  10. Thanks so much for the nice comments. If anyone has photos of your Collins bags, I’d love to do a show and tell. Get in touch!

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  11. Thank you for this interview Lizzie! You have added quite a bit to my knowledge of Enid Collins through the years, and I still love the Pax bag I purchased from you!

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  12. Thank you Lizzie for this great blog! Reading about the person behing the Enid Collins bags makes them all the more more interesting.

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  13. Thanks for such a wonderful interview with Jeep, so glad he found you so to speak. Hope you find your Scottie bag too Lizzie!

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  14. MJ

    Hard work does indeed pay off! Great interview. Still searching for my very own Enid Collins bag…

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  15. Penne

    Oh my goodness. I just ran across this article! Thank you for sharing the history. My mother gave me the LOVE box purse pictured here. We lived in Ft. Hood in the late 60’s. My first purse. I carried it to church every Sunday. I just carried it to a wedding in Florida and got rave reviews. :). It looks as good as the day I first got it. My mother has since given me one of her bags that was leather with lots of flowers and I carry it often. I love Enid and Frederic for their creations they shared with us.

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  16. This is great! I love the photo of her in her work room. It’s so inspiring! I’m really stoked you got this interview.

    Any possibility of you researching the shoe designer Margaret Jerrold? I can’t find any information on her on the internet. I’ve been trying to find information on Margaret Jerrold and Zalo shoes (Paradox by Zalo line).

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  17. ruth johnson

    I have 3 bags that are so wonderful.please call would like to sell to you.4058231319 thanks so much

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  19. Joan Deraleau

    I have been trying to get information on bronze sculptures Frederic Collins did. Not found anything on them so far. It was given to me by friend whose brother was a horse trainer in Texas. It is head of horse, entitled “Bronc” and dated 1946. It is beautifuly done and would sure like to find out more about his sculptures. Any help would be appreciated

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    • Gail Firebaugh Smith

      I’m also looking for info on Frederic Collins bronze sculptures. I inherited one of a horse head entitled “Arabian”, dated 1946, from the estate of a ranch in the TX hill country. It has a handmade wooden frame with brands on it. Paper on back says “Frederic Collins, Spring Valley Ranch, Medina, Texas”. Have you learned anything further? I would also appreciate help from family, friends, or anyone knowledgeable regarding Mr. Collins’ sculptures.

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  21. Pingback: Enid Collins of Texas Handbags | The Vintage Traveler

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