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Kept Couture

Sensible and saucy. And it's about time.

Imagine returning from a relaxing and much-needed vacation only to get pulled aside by customs for a random security check. You sigh. So much for staying relaxed. It's back to the real world. You brace yourself as the agent starts rifling through your bags, up-ending one of them. As your delicates and unmentionables come tumbling out, clean and dirty commingling, you feel your face flush as you think, "Damn! I'd meant to put those things away!"

But the question is where? Kept Couture has the answer. Designers Lisa Albers and Joelle Spinoso have teamed up to create fashionably feminine bags that make travel and transport easy and efficient. Yeah, you could make do by stuffing your undies into a plastic bag. But instead of schlepping your way around the world, why not place your panties in a fully-lined, dual-compartment lingerie bag that zips up and rolls neatly into your suitcase? That way, if customs were to give you grief, you'd save yourself the headache and embarrassment of having your dirty laundry aired to the world.

No doubt a good reason for buying the bag, but it may just be the pretty colors, girly graphics, and compact construct that have made this bag a hit with Kept Couture's target audience: women who are, according to the label's tagline, "feminine and not afraid. Impetuous, but not to a fault." A lot of care and attention have gone into this and the other half-dozen or so bags from the sling-over-your-shoulder, hands-free yoga bag to Kept's hottest seller, the wet suit bag.

The fledgling collection had its start in October 2001. Lisa debuted the lingerie bag a year before Kept's kickoff, when she gave the first of its kind to friends and family for Christmas. Back then, it comprised two separate bags, one for clean and one for sullied undergarments. Though the family response was lukewarm ("my 14 and 15-year-old cousins from Louisiana didn't appreciate them," says Lisa with a laugh), her fashionista friends were delighted.

Enter veteran accessories designer Joelle Spinoso, cousin to a friend of Lisa's. Joelle, who was already selling her designs, mostly scarves, in 200 stores nationwide, liked Lisa's ideas and suggested she piggyback her creations onto Joelle's accessories. Lisa was more than happy to oblige. Right from the start, the response was positive. Kept's bags were taken in by ritzy stores such as Henri Bendels in New York. Now, a year later, they're carried in more than 25 stores across the country.

Of course, Kept is still in its infancy. Orders are still modest enough that the designers cut all of the fabric by hand and then have the production done locally. "It's been a great lesson on how to run a small business," says Lisa, who also has her own graphic and Web design company. Having just recently been covered in both The New York Times and TimeOut New York, the two hope that the increasing awareness around Kept will gain them enough momentum to possibly move their operations overseas.

In the meantime, Kept Couture will continue at its grass-roots level to cater to "the sophisticated, urban professional who believes in both self-reliance and self-indulgence." Stay tuned for more smart and sassy designs in 2003.

You can buy your very own Kept bag at or at:

Flight 001
525 Hayes Street
(Hayes @ Octavia)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.487.1001
Hours: Monday - Saturday (11 am - 8 pm), Sunday (12 - 6 pm)

Heidi Says
2426 Fillmore Street
(Fillmore @ Washington)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.749.0655
Hours: Monday - Friday (11 am - 7 pm), Saturday (10 am - 7 pm), Sunday (11 am - 5 pm)

1422 Grant Avenue
(Grant @ Green)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone: 415.627.6963
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday (11 am - 7 pm), Sunday (12 - 6 pm)

Fetish Shoes
344 Presidio Boulevard
(Presidio @ Clay)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.409.7429
Hours: Monday - Saturday (10 am - 7 pm), Sunday (12 pm - 5 pm)

Damsel In A Dress
417 Main Street
(Main @ Mill)
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Phone: 650.726.4327
Hours: Monday - Sunday (10 am - 6 pm)

Les Deux Copines
1433 Burlingame Avenue
(Burlingame @ Primrose)
Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone: 650.375.1933
Hours: Monday - Saturday (10 am - 6 pm)

Samantha Lee
1378 North Main St.
(N. Main @ Mt. Diablo)
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Phone: 925.938.7267
Hours: Monday - Friday (11 am - 7 pm), Saturday (11 am - 5 pm)