Today sees the launch of Larone Artisans, a company making beautiful bags who are already garnering attention in the world of ethical fashion. It’s no wonder given the that all the designs, from clutches to carry-alls, combine style with traditional artisanship, ecologically sound materials and fair employment practices.
I’ve been following Larone’s development for a while now and was delighted when they named one of their range after me. Yes, like the Hermes Kelly and Birkin and Mulberry’s Alexa, you can now buy a Rae bag! I’ve been toting mine (as pictured above) around for a week now and it’s already a firm favourite – and has solicited a lot of compliments!
To celebrate their launch, Larone Artisans have kindly offered an exclusive 30 percent discount on purchases to the lovely readers of my newsletter. Of course, you can always access this by signing up for the monthly mailing 🙂
Last week, I caught up with one of Larone’s co-founders, Leticia Labre. She’s based in New York while her partner Jennifer Lo is in Manilla, allowing close contact with the Filipino craftwomen who make the bags.
Rae: Tell us about Larone Artisans.
Leticia: Larone Artisans is a brand of handmade handbags mainly made out of natural plant fibers. Larone bags are handwoven by skilled craftsmen and women using traditional weaving techniques.
Why did you decide to create a bag company?
Jennifer comes from a family with a long legacy in weaving and artisanship. Her grandfather learned to weave wicker furniture as a twelve year old orphan to support himself. Through sheer hard work, he was eventually able to open his own wicker furniture factory. Jennifer’s mother had the idea of making purses handwoven from natural fibers and has worked with artisanal communities for more than thirty years since.
Jennifer now runs the workshop, using some of the same materials and weaving techniques her grandfather did and working with some of the artisans who saw her grow up. Larone Artisans mission is to introduce these beautiful handbags to a wider audience through our retail website.
Have ethical values always been central to your vision?
Growing up with a loving family and being given a good education in a country [the Philippines] where many live beneath the poverty line, we are always conscious of our blessings and thus our responsibility to improve our community.
Larone Artisans’ vision is to give continuous livelihood to our weavers throughout the year and not just seasonally.
How did you connect with the women who produce your bags?
From our travels around the Philippines, we have met with artisan communities who make exquisite handcrafts that are easily translated into fashionable handbags.
Have you seen a growing interest in ethical fashion?
In a world of fast fashion, Larone stands out because we do not use the traditional model of having a factory, we work with artisans in their communities.
Women are able to work from home while taking care of their families. We produce in small batches, always mindful of the impact to the environment.
People are beginning to be more appreciative of slow fashion. It’s not a rush to get the product to market but rather a thoughtful process of livelihood, product development, intertwined with people and the environment. So yes, there has been a growing interest.
What are the challenges facing ethical manufacturers? Are these different to ‘mainstream’ companies?
Slow fashion manufacturers are faced with the pressure of keeping up with fast fashion brands.
With woven handbags, there are no shortcuts because there is no machine to speed up the process.
Just extracting raw materials such as fibers is a tedious process and the challenge is
to keep the process sustainable for seasons to come.
Do you have an image of the typical Larone Artisans customer?
The Larone woman has a quirky sense of style and is not afraid to stand out. No boring and safe black leather bag for her! Give her pompoms! Give her color and exotic materials!
She appreciates the handmade details of Larone bags and is attracted to its raw natural character.
What are your backgrounds and how did you guys meet?
I grew up in the Philippines but was living in the US/UK for a long time, most recently as a climate change consultant. Five years ago I moved back to the Philippines, but I knew it was just going to be a stopover before moving back West again. I was looking for a project that could move with me and move me. I had heard about Jennifer and Larone through mutual friends and was immediately excited. First, I love purses (what woman doesn’t)! And they preserve culture and are environmentally-friendly too?? It sounded perfect and it was! I reached out to Jen and here we are 🙂
Which of the bags is the most popular so far?
It’s so hard to say because we’ve received interest and messages on almost every style that we’ve put out on Instagram. At a push I would say maybe the pompom bag for its color, and the wicker saddle bag for its unique shape and material, are slightly more popular. But there’s definitely a group that’s inspired by abaca, of which The Rae Bag is made.
If you could only have one of the bags, which would you choose?
I LOVE my abaca and gold cord tote. It rises to the occasion and carries itself elegantly when I have a dressy occasion to go to. But it’s just as dependable for daily tasks like going to the grocery or the gym! When I’m feeling drab, it’s my preferred pick-my-look-up accessory. I’ve even used it to secure my personal space against people who don’t seem familiar with the concept!
If you want to know more about Larone Artisans and their beautiful bags, head to their website at www.laroneartisans.com – but don’t forget you can secure a 30 percent discount exclusively through my newsletter!