UNION SQUARE — For the past three decades, Susan Bellinson has worked as a midwife at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, delivering babies while also raising two children of her own.
Now Bellison has added another title to her bio — inventor. Her Sucaro Freedom Strap is a hands-free purse for other busy working moms like herself.
“It's actually really cute,” said Bellinson who now stuffs everything she needs in the various pockets of her purple Freedom Strap.
“I don’t take it off,” she added. “I deliver babies in it.”
The purse went on show in Union Square's Paragon store this month.
"It's like a very hip, urban idea," said Jim Laros, a buyer for the camping department at Paragon. "Susan's innovation is just a really new, chic take on being able to carry your daily things."
The unisex strap with pockets comes in a variety of colors and materials and ranges in price from about $135 to $199. Paragon carries the line in leather, canvas and nylon, but Bellinson, who lives in the Bronx, said she has made them in fur and snakeskin, and has contemplated a cashmere version.
Bellinson said she came up with an idea for a bag that would look good while keeping her hands free to give her a place to store her arsenal of things that she needed to get through the day — a wallet, a phone, a checkbook, a few pens, hand lotion, glasses and maybe a packet of gum. But she kept running into a recurring problem.
"I don't like purses," said Bellinson, who added that she tried fanny packs for a while, but had to give them up because they weren’t particularly stylish.
The strap has even attracted a small celebrity following. One of Bellinson’s former patients was on a movie set with Salma Hayek when the star asked what the strap was and where she could get one. The woman gave Hayek the bag right off her back, Bellinson said.
Mick Fleetwood, the drummer from Fleetwood Mac, purchased one in Aspen, Colorado. Fleetwood’s business manager told Bellinson that the musician “doesn’t live without this,” she recalled.
Jill Zarin, from “The Real Housewives of New York City,” has one too, as does James Lipton, the host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”
“It’s a bag for all people. That’s really how I think of it,” Bellinson said. “When I get an idea, I just kind of go with it.”
The strap wasn't her first invention. Several years ago, she got a patent for a medical device that measured the descent of a fetus during labor.
“It did a lot of good things,” she said.
But she didn’t have the money or the time to effectively market it, and subsequent medical innovations have rendered that invention virtually obsolete, she added.
Then, in 2002, she came up with the idea for the Freedom Strap. She didn’t do much with it at the time. Her children, now teenagers, were still very young. But about a year and a half ago, everything came together to bring the strap to life, she said.
Macy’s has expressed an interest in carrying the strap, Bellinson said, and she has already partnered with two organizations to start giving some of the money she’s bringing in back to those in need.
A portion of the proceeds goes to Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings together kids from warring countries and teaches them about ways to put their countries' conflict behind them. She also donates to a program at Montefiore hospital that helps pregnant women in Africa get into a safe facility to deliver their babies.
“I actually really like giving money away,” said Bellinson.
Bellinson says she is about four years away from retirement. Until then, she will continue delivering babies and designing bags on the side.
Bellinson's brand is growing, despite her packed schedule. She’s already designing wallets that fit snugly into the Freedom Strap, and she has plans for more colors and patterns to come soon.
“It’s very exciting to see something develop that was a dream,” said Bellinson.