Shop The Handbag Awards

DESIGNER OF THE DAY

Ana Maria Plata Salazar

Leonor

Leonor Design is a handbag design company that designs and makes its bags in Bogota Colombia. These bags carry the distinctive feature, which resonates the Indigenous Natives of Panama and Colombia, known as the Kuna, using bright colors in modern fashionable designs. These handbags were born from a love for fashion and color and a desire to show a different side of Colombia. Our main material, and the main character of our bags are the mola fabrics, which are handmade by the women of the Kuna tribe. We carefully pair these molas with calf leathers and suedes to create our designs. Each mola piece is hand made by a woman of the Kuna community creating an individual design. These graphic designs can be geometric, or more literal animal or flower pieces inspired by their surroundings. Like a snowflake, no two designs are the same in color or shape. Here lies the uniqueness of each handbag. Each bag is a unique one of a kind piece. We are also Winner of the 2015 Independent Handbag Designer Award for the Most Socially Responsible Handbag.
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Leonor handbags was born from Leonor a savvy business woman, and Ana, a passionate industrial designer and their love for fashion and color and the idea to show people of all over the world a different side of Colombia by designing shoes and handbags around Mola fabrics, which are beautiful pieces of vivid multicolor fabric that are layered and hand-sewn in a sort of patchwork, with graphic patterns drawn from nature and everyday life. and are handmade by the women of the Kuna community on the border of Colombia and Panama. Leonor handbags center their designs around the handstitched art pieces of fabric and no two molas are exactly alike so each bag's leather is specially picked for each mola, making each handbag a unique and exclusive functional piece.Leonor's customers are fun, easy going women that appreciate art and well made pieces, women who love colorful pieces, and aren't afraid of mixing patterns and colors.

Leonor Design is a handbag design company based in Fort Worth, Texas which brings to the market exclusive unique mola bags handmade in Bogota, Colombia. These bags carry the distinctive feature, which resonates the Indigenous Natives of Panama and Colombia, known as the Kuna, using bright colors in modern fashionable designs. These handbags were born from a love for fashion and color and a desire to show a different side of Colombia. Leonor and Ana started their line once they realized how much attention their own purses and shoes were receiving. They would wear items featuring the mola textures and discovered a demand for a type of accessory that existed nowhere in the American market. People would come up to them on the street asking where they got their shoes. They would then tell the story of the mola and the indigenous Kuna people, who reside in Panama and Colombia. They would say how much they wanted them and how beautiful they were. This happened so often that Leonor came up with the idea to import them and start up a new business. She then sought out to create their own line of handbags, this is when Ana jumped in the scene teaming up as designer for the brand , because having a passion for handbags, fashion and design, she thought she could bring a different perspective into the table and designing the pieces around the mola bags creating contemporary, functional and fun bags for modern chic women. Ever since these two women (who are aunt and niece), but could be more like best friends, decided to team up, their products have received raving reviews.

Leonor’s head designer Ana Maria Plata has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has always had a passion for design, citing her interest in everything from light and furniture to handbags and home accessories. After completing her education, Ana worked for seven years at Quorum International LLP, a Fort Worth based lighting and home furnishing company. While there, she developed over 500 items and her work has been published in Residential Lighting Magazine.

Her skill and creativity is not limited to Industrial and Fashion design. She has worked as a freelance designer in both Fort Worth, Texas and Bogota, Colombia broadening her artistic experience, even being hired for mural work. Ana is also the owner and designer at Confetti Cupcakes, located in Bogota, which specializes in custom cupcakes. These personalized cupcakes have been featured in Colombian Bride magazines several times. Her keen eye for trends and color forecast, in addition to her attention to detail, allow her to make the vibrant combinations Leonor’s Handbags.

Ana’s handbag designs for Leonor were previous finalists in the Independent Handbag Designer Awards (IHDA) in 2010 and 2011, nominated in the Most Socially Responsible Handbag and the Isabella Fiore Artisan House Award categories. This year her design has again been selected for the IHDA under the same category. Together, all of Ana’s talents and experience have provided her with the tools to manage a business and design unique and exquisite products.Ana has a keen eye for trends and color forecast which she applies to make the vibrant combinations for Leonor´s handbags. She worked as a freelance designer in both Fort Worth, Texas, and Bogota, Colombia, where she has had extensive artistic experience, from painting murals to designing furniture and lighting. Together, all of Ana’s talents and experience have provided her with the tools to manage a business and design unique and exquisite products. She remains true to her Colombian roots and strives to bring that heritage into her work.

Ana claims her inspiration from the Kuna people themselves and other native cultures. Besides using materials made the Kunas, the bags feature the shape and forms of items used by historical tribes. The handbag up for the award this year is the Múcura. It is named for the Spanish word for a type of clay canteen used by a native tribe originally to carry water to and from their village. It has since taken on a greater meaning. Tradition now holds its use in birthing and funeral rites. It is also symbol for femininity in the native culture and carries great symbolic power. The bag itself is designed in the shape featuring a wide bottom and narrowing at the top. This design has taken a traditional item and transformed it using modern methods, while simultaneously maintaining its function and form.She takes inspiration from colorful cities like Cartagena, New Orleans, charming Colombian colonial towns like Villa de Leyva and incorporates this into her collections. She also takes color cues from the combination she does with her delicious cupcakes.

"I have always been very inspired by color and different color combinations, unusual color harmonies have always caught my eye and I always try to find a way to incorporate out of the box color combos in our bags. Being an industrial designer I also have a passion for Architecture, so I draw inspiration from buildings, construction details, furniture, lighting, nature or anything that surrounds me that has an interesting shape that I like! It always inspires me to draw in spaces I find interesting like a park, a cool museum building or in my house with Molly my dog sleeping by my feet and some good tunes on my boyfriend's badass speakers"

Our main material, and the main character of our bags are the mola fabric, which we carefully combined with calf leathers and suedes to create our designs. The mola fabric is created by using a reverse appliqué process that requires multiple layers of cloth to be hand-sewed together and then cut away revealing the colors below. Each piece is hand made by a woman of the Kuna community creating an individual design. These graphic designs can be geometric, or more literal animal or flower pieces inspired by their surroundings. Like a snowflake, no two designs are the same in color or shape. Here lies the uniqueness of each handbag. These fabrics are then used in process; cut, stitched, and shaped to the desired form.

Ana is usually drawing little ideas in napkins, post its, her house chalkboard, or her sketchbooks, these ideas then will become or not part of the collection, . Everything starts with paper, pencil and some good music (The National, Arcade Fire, The XX), to get the inspiration going, she is very old school in that matter, and whenever Ana feels inspired she gets one of her sketchbooks and starts doodling. She sketches all the pieces of each collection, and discusses them with Leonor. The have brainstorming sessions in person or via Skype, and finalize the concepts, sometimes she colors them with pencil colors, sometimes she colors them in Photoshop sometimes they're just black and white sketches with leather swatches. Once a design for a new handbag has been developed by Ana, she and Leonor discuss possible color palettes that would work with the collection but most of the work is done piece by piece selecting the leather colors, trimmings, lining fabrics and thread color according to each mola piece. After the design is done, Ana works very close and directly with a family of 3, mother, father and Ramiro their son who is in his 30's. To construct the patterns, and produce by hand each of our handbags. Ramiro, who is their son, and I go together to source and look for materials, and we work on creative sessions through out the whole production process.

Lately we have been experimenting with other unique pieces form other colombian native communities, right now we are incorporating Guacamaya pieces into our bags too, these are hand weaved pieces made of "fique", an endemic natural fiber that is dyed in vibrant colors and then weaved in circular rings making different patterns, these are handmade by a cooperative of women from a small town called Guacamayas in the Andes region of Colombia.

Recently, the Leonor Brand has been recognized as a rising label with orders coming in from around the US, Colombia as well as internationally all the way from places such as Australia, Croatia, and many more. These items are a new fun way to show off your style and support an unique culture. Leonor handbags are unique little pieces of art you can carry with you everywhere you go. There will never be two bands exactly alike so you know you have a one of a kind product in hand.

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