The award-winning actress has found unexpected success by artfully decorating high-end designer bags including the famous Hermès Birkin, vintage logo styles from Louis Vuitton and more with signature artwork requested by clients. She’s drawn pictures of dogs, horses, hamsters and even the solar system on the luxury bags, and boasts a A-list clientele including the likes of Barbra Streisand, Lena Dunham and Julie Andrews (who have all requested designs of their dogs!).
But now Bergen is expanding her brand by bringing it to the masses with an affordably priced line of merchandise, including apparel, bags, phone cases, pillows, dishes and wall art, in her signature whimsical prints ranging in price from $19.99-$59.99. There’s an adorable food series with hot dogs, ice cream cones and tacos prints, as well as special holiday-themed collections.
“My personal favorite is the hotdog, even though I don’t eat meat,” Bergen tells PEOPLE exclusively about her new launch. “The hotdog just with the squiggle of mustard always intrigued me, and it almost killed me. The bun was really hard, but not as hard as the ice cream cone. Just try to do a waffle cone sometime. But it’s great. I try to do it as exactly as possible.”
To kick off the new collection of merch, Bergen filmed a video explaining the backstory of BergenBags and revealing that she’s “really over” drawing “little white dogs.”
“Everyone has a Maltese,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m just so over them.”
What she does enjoy drawing is “a really funny, scruffy looking dog or a droopy dog or any kind of animal. I’m always thrilled when I get another animal. Someone asked for a camel wearing a fedora, which is one of my favorites, and so it’s just fun to be able to branch into other animals. I feel like I’m getting kind of hemmed in with dogs.”
The actress has never been an avid painter before launching BergenBags, just dabbled in it from time to time. But thanks to her daughter, Vogue contributing editor Chloe Malle, a simple trip to the paint store turned into a whole new business venture.
“Someone had given Chloe a Louis Vuitton tote,” explains Bergen. “I had just come in from the art store where I bought a bunch of art pens and she said, ‘Oh, you can decorate my bag.’ And I said, ‘Ruin a Vuitton?’ But I decorated her bag with rabbits and things. It was very sort of whimsical.”
After Malle posted a photo of her custom bag on Instagram, her friends quickly asked for their own designs. “I decorated some of their bags and BergenBags sort of spontaneously gave birth that way,” the actress explains.
Since its start three years ago she’s decorated around 80 BergenBags, with all proceeds going charities, including the ASPCA and the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Sales from Candice Bergen Art also are donated to these charities.)
Initially, Bergen bought the pens to dabble in decorating glassware. “Basically I was thinking of ruining glasses,” she jokes. “I didn’t really paint before. I sort of learned as I went along. My early efforts are really clumsy, but I’ve done some pretty good ones.”
While the handbag brands have never approached Bergen, a few have followed her lead by debuting bags with scribbled-on artwork. “They copied me and I was so proud,” Bergen says.
She revealed that she’s never decorated her own designer handbag collection, and no-doubt has very little time to do so with the waitlist now up to 300 orders. “There’s probably no hope for them, but it’s really very meditative to do it. Painting teaches you to look at things differently and more exactly and to pay more attention to detail in objects.”
When asked what’s next for the business, she’s already thinking of the next themed-series to roll out on Candice Bergen Art (hinting that children’s products are soon to come).
“I think it could have grown even bigger, but I would get paying jobs from time to time,” says the actress, who is set to star in the upcoming film, Let Them All Talk with Meryl Streep, coming out this fall.
Bergen’s new line of merchandise is available at candicebergenartstuff.com.