Bringing back the fanny pack 

Whistler designer and leathersmith Julia Vagelatos creating handmade belts, headbands and even fanny packs with help of Community Futures program

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Julia Vagelatos is rooting for the underdog of the fashion world.

"What I'm really, really excited about is fanny packs," she said, giggling. "I've been trying to bring the fanny pack back for like two years and we were looking through some magazines in the UK, and the fanny pack is back in the UK! So we're thinking, 'Oh man, our time is now!' Our fashions always seem a little behind the UK, so I'm like 'I'm on it!'"

Push aside the Day-Glo nylon monstrosity that instantly popped into your head. Vagelatos's version is much more refined. She creates each one from scratch, attaching her custom-designed leather belts, complete with vintage buckles, to the pack portion.

The Whistler-based leathersmith's spin on the throwback fanny pack has caught the eye of a UK designer, Nina Hopkins of Swagga & Soul, who is featuring two of Vagelatos's unique designs in her 2011 look book.

"That was really great because that actually pushed my boundaries. Living in Whistler and living on the West Coast, our style is a little bit different, you know? It's a little laidback. So I really had to think about what the UK is and that fashion scene and try to step it up."

Love Jules Leather accessories look right at home alongside the sophisticated, trendy designs of the big city.

And the UK look book isn't the only big project on the horizon for Vagelatos. She has also been asked to design a line of accessories for the B.C.-based surf clothing line, Sitka.

"What's really great about it is that I'm designing, but they're also going to give me full credit in their catalogue."

A lot has happened in the past year for the up-and-coming artist. Last spring, Vagelatos was accepted into the Community Futures Self Employment Program, which allowed her to focus full-time on her art and business.

"The product that I was making last year compared to what it is now, it blows my mind!" she said.

The program also helped her learn about the business side of things, like bookkeeping and marketing.

"The classes that came along with it were really helpful and it got my mind out of just being an artist and what it means to be a business person," Vagelatos added.

A Whistler-raised ski racer, Vagelatos retired from the sport, and the B.C. ski team, in 2002 to pursue her passion for the arts.

"I was just graduating from high school and the team had moved to Invermere, B.C., so I was living out there and I don't know, I felt there was some vacancy there. I wasn't loving it anymore," she recalled. "And all my friends were going to university and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do."

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