GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique Grand Opening Festivities

By: Staci Rutherford

I first featured GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique after attending the soft launch in late August.  If you have not had a chance to visit yet, you’re in luck.  GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique will celebrate its grand opening festivities on Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10 at Trenholm Plaza, 4840 Forest Drive, Suite 17.  Each day from 10 am to 6 pm, boutique owner Gwen Rawls will welcome guests to view her latest collection of Italian shoes and handbags—couture originals direct from Milan—along with the chance to sample delicious Italian hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, and the chance to win several boutique gift certificates and coastal travel packages.

“I am thrilled with the gracious reception and enormous support we have received in the last two months,” said Rawls.  “Clearly, there was a demand for an upscale boutique in this market and I am so happy to give back to my growing customer base with our exciting Grand Opening celebration.”

After a September trip to Milan to complete her winter product line of fine Italian leather shoes, boots and handbags, the GWEN RAWLS collection now features more than ten designers including Roberto Cavalli, Baldan, Luciano Padoran, Luis Onofre, Gianna Meliani and Mario Zamagna.  “It’s been so much fun introducing Columbia shoppers to the Italian designers I’ve discovered,” said Rawls.  “They are already famous on the runways of Milan and in the pages of fashion magazines like Italian Vogue, but now they are gaining notoriety right here in Columbia.”  Rawls emphasizes that many of the shoes in her collection are made exclusively for the GWEN RAWLS label while others are only sold in Europe—meaning Columbia is the only place in the U.S. to offer many of her styles.

Gwen Rawls invites the women of the Midlands to her boutique to learn about the designers in her collection and to fully understand the old world craftsmanship found in her shoes.  “When you purchase a GWEN RAWLS shoe, you are making a long-term investment in a high-quality, stylish product that will stand the test of time,” said Rawls. “I am honored to bring these styles to the States and to add to the exciting retail metamorphosis that is taking place in our capital city.”

Columbia Welcomes GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique

By: Staci Rutherford

Gwen Rawls

When I first discovered that a new accessories boutique was coming to town, I could not wait to share the news with all of the trendsetters and fashionistas of the Midlands!  GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique opened on August 23, and of course, I had to stop by to check out all of the fabulous shoes imported straight from Italy.  I had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Gwen Rawls, at Power of the Purse a few months prior to the opening, and instantly connected with her since we share a passion for beautiful accessories.

A South Carolina native with a love for European fashion, Gwen has traveled extensively throughout Europe, but she always returned to Milan to explore the world’s fashion capital.  Like many women living in Columbia, Gwen felt her shoe shopping options were limited, and typically went to boutiques in Charlotte, New York and Atlanta to find the stylish brands she loved.

Gwen began conceptualizing an Italian shoe boutique that could help women in Columbia—and throughout the southeast—find their own foundation for fashion right here in the capital city.  “At GWEN RAWLS, women will find elegant Italian shoes and bags that are limited in quantity to ensure a customer can build her own signature look.  I want my customers to feel empowered with their purchase and to give them a renewed sense of elegance.”

When I first stepped into the boutique, I didn’t know which way to turn.  There were beautiful shoes displayed everywhere.  The staff at GWEN RAWLS was warm and friendly, which is often rare when shopping at an upscale place. I can honestly say that Gwen really thought about her customers’ lifestyle when she personally selected each shoe.  Styles include embellished stilettos, knee high boots, booties and flats for women like me who find it difficult to stay graceful in a heel more than 3 inches.

 The next time you are out and about, stop by GWEN RAWLS and tell them Staci sent you.  It is located near Chipotle at 4840 Forest Drive, Suite 17.  Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Also, be sure to connect with GWEN RAWLS via Facebook at or on Twitter @GwenRawls.  You can also visit the website at

Help Feed the World with Feed Bags

By: Staci Rutherford

When I’m not researching the latest “it” bags, trends and designers, I enjoy finding handbags that are designed for a good cause.  I discovered FEED Projects a few years ago, and constantly feature new FEED bags on my blog.  Today, I want to introduce you to FEED, because these meaningful products have a tremendous impact on different parts of the world.

FEED Projects’ mission is to create good products that help FEED the world.  The merchandise mix includes eco-friendly FEED bags, t-shirts, and other accessories, with a set donation factored into the cost of each item.  FEED believes that everyone has the right to basic human necessities, such as healthy and nutritious food.  Every product has a stenciled number that signifies the actual impact of your purchase.  Here are a few of my favorite bags available at




The FEED 5 Africa Bag was designed in honor of FEED’s 5th anniversary.  It is handmade by artisans in Kenya.  The outside of the bag is made from burlap material, along with the “FEED the Children of the World” logo from the first-ever FEED bag, the FEED 1 Bag.  The bag is lined with traditional African kitenge fabric.  Each FEED 5 Africa bag provides 5 children with micro-nutrient powder for 1 year through the FEED Foundation’s Nutrients Fund.


The FEED USA Bag includes a $5 donation to the FEED Foundation’s FEED USA program to improve school food and nutrition education in America through  After purchasing your FEED USA Bag, use the 8-digit code provided on the hang tag and visit the FEED USA platform to choose the initiative you want to fund.  The bucket shape bag is made of 100% organic cotton.




The FEED LOVE Bag was designed in partnership with (RED).  The purchase of the (FEED) RED LOVE 30 Bag will provide approximately 30 days of ARV treatment through the Global Fund and 30 nutritious school meals through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), thus providing one month of life-saving assistance.  Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment not only helps people live with HIV/AIDS, but also helps prevent the transmission of the disease from moms to their babies (RED)-supported Global Fund grants deliver this treatment to some of the countries hit hardest by the disease.  The (FEED) RED LOVE bag is made of natural burlap with signature PRODUCT (RED) logo, faux suede bottom and large back pocket.


In January 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.  The FEED Haiti bag was created to help raise funds to maintain local school feeding operations during that critical time. Today, FEED continues to support Haiti’s school feeding operations as the country slowly rebuilds and faces challenges in nutrition, health, and education.  Each FEED Haiti Bag will provide 50 meals through the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  The tote is made of 100% organic cotton and uses the red and blue Haitian national colors.

As you can see, FEED bags are making a difference in helping feed the world.  The next time you are looking for a gift for a loved one, consider showing your support in the fight against hunger, and invest in a FEED bag.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone – Part 2

By: Staci Rutherford

“Believe with all of your heart that you will do what you were made to do.” – Orison Swett Marden

I am beginning part two with a meaningful quote that sums up how I have been feeling since before stepping out of my comfort zone.  I spent the month of February on an emotional roller coaster.  At times, I was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, however, my excitement and happiness outweighed those feelings and I came out on top.

The showroom officially opened its doors to the public on Thursday, March 1, 2012, which was also First Thursday at Tapp’s Art Center.  First Thursday is a big event that takes place every month at Tapp’s, where the work of different artists, photographers, and sculptors are featured.  It’s a fun, laid back atmosphere that is perfect for networking and connecting with kindred spirits.  I met some fantastic people and received positive feedback on the space that I worked so hard to make just right.

As I explained throughout the evening, the showroom is extension of the blog.  It’s a place to personally connect with my readers and customers, and to bring the blog from virtuality to reality.  I chose accessories from a local designer to feature in the showroom, Nana by Sally.  The collection is one-of-a-kind handmade clutches and handbags made from vintage, vintage-inspired and designer fabrics.  I also interviewed the designer of Nana by Sally, Sally Peek, which is currently posted on the blog.

The next few weeks will be spent continuing to decorate the space, and preparing for the official grand opening.  I look forward to sharing the showroom with my friends, family, and all of the women in town who love handbags.  I believe with all of my heart that I am doing what I am meant to do, which is an exciting and scary adventure!

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone – Part 1

By:  Staci Rutherford

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

I found this quote months ago and it made me stop and think about where I am in my life, and where I want to be.  I have many goals that I want to accomplish, but often struggle with determining what to do first.  My time management and procrastination issues often leave me wondering how I will get it all done.  I follow a group of bloggers who are my source of motivation, because they are living a life doing what they love.  I have already established my love of handbags, and nothing would make me happier than turning my passion into a profitable business and life-long career.  Since my last post, I finally made the first move.

Before I share my exciting news, I must acknowledge two dynamic women who have come into my life believing in my vision, and challenging me to take the next step – Roshanda Pratt and Alicia Zeigler.  After several conversations about my short term and long term plans, both Roshanda and Alicia have offered advice and resources that have given me the confidence to market what I have to offer beyond my handbag blog.  Roshanda, a fellow Every Woman Blogger, is also a media consultant with R.E.P. Communications Network.  She took the time to help me focus on developing my ideas into something tangible.  While donating a handbag to a pre-Columbia Style Week event, I met Alicia, the founder of FFS Model & Talent Agency, Columbia Fashion Alliance, Columbia Style Week and the new editor of Wink Magazine, Columbia’s premiere fashion magazine.  We immediately clicked, and she too gave great advice that has been instrumental in my stepping out of my comfort zone.

After a few days contemplating whether it was the right time, I decided to follow my heart and rent a studio space at the Tapp’s Art Center located downtown on Main Street. “Studio 26” is the new home the office and showroom!  It will be an extension of my blog – a place to connect with others who love handbags.  I plan on having monthly purse parties, designer trunk shows, themed events and more.  I am excited to share this journey with you as my life is just beginning!

Handbag Tips: How to Clean and Store Your Handbags

By:  Staci Rutherford

To Help Keep Your Handbags Clean, I’m Giving Away a Mia Cotone Dust Cover!

It should come as no surprise that I am writing another article about handbags.  While it’s fun to share my favorite picks of the season, this post is about cleaning and storing your bags.  It amazes me how many women spend hundreds of dollars on their handbags and don’t put forth any effort in taking care of them. Regardless of the amount of money spent on a bag, it’s good to know how to care for your bag properly to ensure that it has a long life and to keep them looking like new.

Tips on Cleaning Your Handbag

1.  Empty all the pockets of your handbag, and shake gently to remove dust, gum/candy wrappers, receipts and loose change.
2. Clean interior of bag by gently putting it inside out and using a lint roller.  If you can’t pull out the lining of your handbag, use the fabric brush attachment on your vacuum.
3.  Use alcohol free baby wipes to clean leather or leather-like bags.
4.  Keep your makeup in a separate cosmetic bag to prevent unexpected stains.

Tips on Storing Handbags

1.  Fill handbags loosely with tissue paper to help keep the original shape.
2. Keep your handbag in a dust cover.  If your bag didn’t come with a drawstring pouch, then consider purchasing a few that coordinate with your prized possessions or the bags you wear most often.
3. Most of us don’t have customized closets with a designated space for our bags. As an alternative, store them in baskets or bins made of plastic-coated wire. Stand bags upright or lay them down with a little space in between.  Your bags need to breathe, so avoid plastic bends with a tight-fitting lid.

If you are looking for a stylish storage solution for your handbags, I highly recommend Mia Cotone handbag dust covers.  They are thoughtfully designed to keep your handbags clean and organized.  By storing bags individually, it keeps leather soft and supple and prevents drying and fading.  There are 28 colors to choose from and they are available in several styles and sizes.  I hope my tips will save your bags from being thrown on the floor in your closet.

To show my appreciation to all of the readers of the Every Woman Blog, I am giving away one Mia Cotone zebra print Mia Clutch dust cover!  All you have to do is “like” Mia Cotone on Facebook and comment on this post with the following “I want a Mia Cotone dust cover!”  One lucky winner will be randomly selected on February 20th.

Update Your Fall Wardrobe with a New Bag

By: Staci Rutherford

Now that fall is here, it’s time to update our wardrobe.  The easiest way to revamp your wardrobe without breaking the bank is to invest in new accessories.  Accessories are the key to transforming those items in your closet that start to become drab over time.  Accessories include jewelry, hosiery, scarves, hats, handbags, and shoes.  They will instantly bring an outfit to life.

Before you begin shopping for new accessories, take an hour (or two) to assess what is already in your closet.  If there is anything that you have not worn within the last year, get rid of it!  There is no point in holding on to clothes and accessories that are not being put to good use.  Organize your unwanted items into three piles – one for the church/Salvation Army/Goodwill; another for friends and family; and a pile of your almost new/designer items that you don’t want to give away.  I’m using the term “designer” loosely.  Clothes don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars to be considered valuable.  That pile will go to a consignment store.  Consigning is a great way to earn extra money for clothes that you no longer wear.  I recommend Roundabout Consignments.

Once you sort through your fall wardrobe to determine what to keep, take note of the color palette, what may be missing, and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.  Now, let the shopping begin!  My top two favorite accessories are scarves and handbags, of course.  Since I am constantly scouring the Internet for great deals, I have compiled a list of fabulous fall handbags that are under $150.00.  I have chosen a few evenings bags, everyday bags, and casual bags that are both stylish, functional and versatile.

Market Sequin Clutch, $44.00 at

Jeweled Crossbody Bag, $98.00 at

Deux Lux Sequin Tote, $39.50 at

R&J Handbags by Romeo & Juliet Couture Luggage Satchel, $63.00 at

Steve Madden Yale Convertible Satchel, $118.00 at

Striped Messenger, $32.80 at

Ivanka Trump Grace Satchel, $125.00 at

R&Em Zippy Bowler, $88.00 at

If you have any questions about how to accessorize or want to share a new handbag you purchased recently to update your fall wardrobe, email me anytime!