Sign Language

Created with repurposed vinyl from old billboards, Noubar clutches make a sleek, sturdy statement.

Those giant roadside billboards may catch your eye during your morning commute, but sisters Anahid and Arminé Thompson want to make a lasting impression by using the vinyl from former ad campaigns in a fun way. The two created Noubar, a line of repurposed clutches, after years working at their family-owned business, Cleveland Outdoor Advertising.

"There has been this whole movement toward repurposing materials, and we store a lot of vinyl when a client doesn't want to advertise the same image again," explains Anahid Thompson.

Using their company's archives, the sisters have access to ads from more than 10 years ago, but tend to use more current campaigns. "The vinyl is more than 100 pounds a billboard so we take from the top first," she says.

Noubar features three stylish and smart clutches, each named after a Cleveland street: Woodland Avenue (small, $225), Carnegie Avenue (medium, with a detachable gold chain, $250) and Euclid Avenue (oversized, $270). Each handbag has a pomegranate colored lining (a nod to the sisters' Armenian heritage).

The sisters trim the 14-by-48 vinyl slabs with utility knives, honing in on the colorful, interesting parts of the ad. They then clean the vinyl pieces by hand with basic laundry detergent to make each one-of-a-kind bag.

"We don't use all of the billboard parts because some are not interesting or are weathered," Thompson explains.

To up the style factor, each bag is hand-stitched, trimmed in leather and adorned with gold embellishments. Even the smallest clutch is large enough for a cell phone, keys, wallet and other take-along necessities.

Half the fun of a Noubar bag is guessing its origin. Did the purse weather whipping winds by the airport? Was it a rush hour eye-catcher in its prior life? One look at a clutch and you would never know that the base material might have been a bloody mary-flavored vodka ad that once graced the Interstate 480 bridge.

"It's like a Seurat painting," says Thompson. "From far away you can see the image, but close up, it's pixelated colors."

In The Bag

Carnegie Avenue


Euclid Avenue


Woodland Avenue


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