Ever since a child in New Orleans, Ellie always loved her handbags...
She used to experiment creating new designs and sewing them with her sister, much to the chagrin of her mother when she found her pearl necklace had been used for purse handles. Ellie loved her New Orleans life, the smells of creole seasoning and music playing around every corner, but found herself itching to explore old world European cities rich in history, fine cuisine, art and culture. In 2014 she set off to Europe and landed in Rome. The excitement of discovering a city where old met new provided her with the inspiration to develop BENE Handbags.
She spent the next year working with family, friends, artists and most importantly Italian leather specialists, until she curated the perfect team. She soon discovered that Italy operated on the old school system of who you knew. She looked to locals who knew the business for inspiration, and hit the streets of Rome and Florence to ask anyone and everyone what and who they knew in the handbag industry. With determination and a few strokes of luck, she tapped into the “old boys club” of the handbag industry. After months of introductions and hand shaking with some of the most influential people in the industry, she felt comfortable and confident in the team she had shaped to make her dreams come true.
Once her team was in place, she spent the following year designing the premier collection of BENE to express her New Orleans roots and her newfound love of Italy in a classic product. She is proud to have launched her first collection in Fall 2016.
Q: Describe the brand in 5 words?
Chic, functional, timeless, stylish, funky
Q: What is the most fascinating part about working with artisans who have been practicing these crafts for so many generations?
Their dedication to the craft. Some of the most talented craftsmen can barely write in Italian (they can speak it) but they truly know how to ensemble a beautiful bag. I take pride in keeping a dying tradition (lots and lots of fashion houses are moving production to china, then send it back to Italy for the "final" touches to stamp it "Made in Italy''. You can't find craftsmen (not machines) like this in any other part of the world. It is pure magic!
Q: Why statement bags? What does fashion do for you? Why is it important?
Its funny- I'm not considered a "fashonista" by my friends. I was always a tomboy growing up but for me my bag was/is my outfit. I used my bags as a way to elevate or camouflage my outfit since I hated buying clothes. I always distract people with a nice bag. The trends changed too fast, so once I picked up on one or saved my allowance to buy it, it was out of style. BUT the right designer bag never did.
Q: Why did you choose to work with female artisans for the interior of the bags?
1: I love the arts...all arts. 2: I'm from New Orleans. When people think of New Orleans they think of good food, good times, good people, jazz music, art galleries, high energy and walking around with a beer. When you visit you feel different, you feel happy and in high spirits. The city has a vibe and I wanted to bring that energy to my bags. The outside is all Italian inspired making the bag shapes ultra chic and sleek but the inside is this artwork that is meant to give you a little boost of energy. Pretty things make people happy and as women, we look inside our bags an uncountable amount of times a day and if that interior gives you .0001 of a second of happiness...I've done my job.
Q: What is your favorite food in the world? Favorite fruit?
Corn! I love corn...all types of corn. I add corn to everything I can add salt to.
I also love a really ripe kiwi and pineapples!!!
Q: What is your favorite color?
My fav color(s) are turquoise and gold. I'm obsessed!!! I loved blue and green as a kid so in my mind mixing the colors would mean turquoise would solve my love for both colors...plus it is just a very happy (not overly happy) yet soothing color for me.
Q: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
An elephant in Africa. They're bosses, have a trunk and wicked smart.