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As Featured in the Houston Chronicle

Posted by Casey Kelley on

Get Ahead of the Class

Adding to the list of trends is a growing demand for ethnic diversity. Take the Blended Designs’ 1954 backpack collection. It’s the brainchild of Casey Kelley, a former consumer analyst in Florida who decided to create a line of backpacks at the request of her 9-year-old son, Carter.

“My son wanted one with his face, or someone who looked like him, on his own bag,” Kelley said. “I did the research and found only 2 percent of character bags on the market feature children of color.”

Within three weeks of her son asking for his own bag, Kelley launched the 1954 collection in March 2017 on Facebook. After several celebrities posted images of her bags, the line sold some $250,000 bags in several months. The backpacks start at $34.95 and come in 14 styles and three sizes.

Kelley regularly attends expos and trade shows where she finds the backpacks have a mass appeal. “Kids recognize at a young age that this isn’t normal to see a face that looks like them on a backpack, so they grab the bags and hug them,” she said.

She named it the “1954 collection” after the Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka case, a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

“If you change the images, you can change the narrative,” Kelley said. “I hope the bags will help build their self-esteem, and I hope they make children feel they can do anything.”

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