THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF TOGETHERNESS
LOVE. It's about seeing the positive in people, all people. It's about pushing through boundaries. It's about creating a world where there is HOPE for all, regardless of one's predicament. It's about believing that true love exists after disappointments and even betrayals. It's about forgiveness too and letting go when necessary. It’s about keeping it real, very real especially when faced with difficult decisions while honoring the love one must have for oneself. It's about bringing cultures together and seeing our similarities while respecting our differences. It’s about the courage of honesty and knowing thoughtfully and intelligently what is right.
That’s what I saw in the union of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
One of the things I have most enjoyed about my handbag business has been the diversity of people I have met along the way, and I am happily surprised when stereotypes are broken.
For example, I love the tannery, American Tanning, in Griffin, Georgia. There exists a deep American Southern culture that I did not know much about before this enterprise. I may have some prejudices about Southerners, perhaps believing that most are quite insular and racist. Instead, I have found loving and open minded people, especially with Christy who is the face of the tannery, the third or fourth generation of this family business. She is worldly, kindhearted, warm, hospitable, direct, outspoken, funny, in your face and especially caring for all kinds of people. This company embraces many cultures while maintaining their own Southern identity with a modern look at the world.
My desire to make beautiful handbags took me to Hong Kong because I found a particular skill set and a workshop that allowed me to work one-on-one with a skilled craftsman to figure out how to produce what I had in mind. We made the patterns, the shapes, discussed the materials, how to work them, and I learned step by step how to make a handbag. I fell in love with Hong Kong even though it is a world apart from my own. I especially loved the food and appreciated how important family and the elderly are to their culture.
In Hong Kong, I also learned about our differences, and it was a challenge often to communicate my instructions only to find that the craftsman decided to do it his own way. This family atelier wanted to do things super efficiently focusing perhaps too much on short-term monetary goals, and the design and quality was eventually a bit too compromised as a result. They are loving, hardworking and well-meaning people. They were a positive influence on me. Even so, I found that a certain mindset existed that perhaps was more about working with a previous generation who is accustomed to having the last word, and unfortunately it wasn’t compatible with my longterm objectives. I cherish the experience, and I have now moved on a facility in South Africa, yet another world apart from mine. I am so far loving the process of making handbags with them.
I have considered making the handbags within the United States, and perhaps I will someday. I was told to look into Italy because of the market value of "made in Italy." I respect very much Italian design and its history of beautiful craftsmanship. However, I did not find the right fit for my vision in Italy.
I was also told that because I am part-Colombian I should produce my handbags in Colombia. I looked but did not find what I wanted in Colombia despite my love for this country. I did a little soul searching in that the cultures I was hiring for my business have little to do with my own roots. I realized that for me, having been raised bi-culturally was not about sticking to my own roots. Instead, it meant that I should be open to different backgrounds. It is about being understanding of our differences and knowing how to negotiate those differences for the better.
I love the international aspect of working with handbag experts wherever they may be. South Africa produces some of the most beautiful hides in a socially and environmentally responsible way. They also have the ability to make them into beautiful handbags in a way that coincides with my point of view.
As a result, my designs are inspired by where I live and my own personal history, some of the materials are made in the US, a few components are made in other countries including China, and the product is finalized in South Africa. My team in Miami is particularly diverse too. That’s the world we live in, and we must embrace it.
I always have been drawn to people of all nationalities. When I was a child, Disney World was very much about the world and its many cultures. My favorite ride was "It's A Small World." Throughout my life, I have always had friends from many different nationalities. Even within my family, we are a colorful group.
My interpretation of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, what I saw in her veil representing the numerous commonwealth countries and California (also my birthplace), and their work to make the world better was that I too in my own small way wish to continue to bring people together from different cultures in producing something beautiful that may seem unimportant or even capricious but can represent a particular point of view. A handbag has become a statement in a woman's wardrobe more than any other item.
In sum, the fact that people from diverse backgrounds have a part in the process of making a handbag, that the companies involved have a strong sense of social responsibility, that they are crafted with excellence, that the exquisite materials such as alligator and ostrich pay homage to traditional elegance, that the handbags are meant to be a keepsake and of durable quality, that they celebrate bright bold and different colors, that the designs are sensible and timeless, and that they are priced in a conscionable manner — that’s my objective. That's a big part of the LOVE in my craft. So when my customer puts one of my handbags with these attributes, she feels particularly good, confident and beautiful — that is when I will have achieved success.
And so I continue on lovingly…..