Heritage-Rich Handbags

The daughter of a Togolese entrepreneur and a French researcher who grew up in Africa and Europe, Ayele Locoh-Donou, now married to an African American banker from Atlanta and raising three young children in Larchmont, is hardly the stereotypical suburban soccer mom. Fluent in five languages, this former corporate attorney, most recently an adviser to the executive director for Africa on the World Bank’s Board of Directors, today designs fine leather handbags that reflect the multi-cultural heritage of her family.

“I wanted to pass on my values to my children—to celebrate the identity and richness of a mixed heritage,” says Locoh-Donou, who studied accessory construction and design at the London College of Fashion and attended the renowned Technical Center of Leather in Lyon, France. Handmade in Tuscany, her luxurious handbags feature supple French calfskin—Locoh-Donou selects the skins and uses the same tannery as Hermès—Italian hand-stitching, fine silk linings, and custom African-inspired embellishments.

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The brand’s winter collection—its second—debuted last month in New York, Paris, and London. Named for the American-born French chanteuse Josephine Baker, the Josephine line is inspired by both art deco Paris circa 1930s and the Tuareg, a nomadic people of sub-Saharan Africa, and features striking metal accents reminiscent of the latter’s ancient tradition of silver jewelry-making. The Ayele line is currently sold through an online boutique and at private events. To request access to the boutique or to receive an invitation to local events, contact info@ayeledesigns.com. Prices range from $500 to $2,000, with 5 percent of revenues going to support education and leadership programs in Africa.

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