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Wednesday, February 18th 2009

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For that eclectic, well-traveled look we (and the runways) love right now, we look no further than Cleobella, an enchantingly free-spirited line of handbags new to shopbop. We talked to designer Angela O’Brien about her nomadic journeys, the source of her inspiration, and the ethical production of her line.

shopbop: Cleobella came about after you and your husband embarked on a soul-searching trip abroad. We have to ask, where did you go?
Angela O’Brien: My husband and I decided it was a good time for change so we left our comfortable jobs in California and bought a ticket around the world. We traveled through New Zealand, Australia, India, and Southeast Asia. We lived in a VW bus and traveled all through Europe and over to Africa. The trip was designed around the seasons and swells; my husband is a surfer and I like to get in the water and have fun when I get a chance. The year of traveling was so liberating and it inspired so much new thought and creativity. Traveling is our passion and what we like to do best!

SB: What inspired you to launch the collection?
AO: It was really all the elements of foreign cultures, people we encountered, and my love of fashion that interested me most in launching Cleobella. I was always one of those people who had too many interests and could not choose one career path, but I dreamed of doing something creative that I could share with others. While my husband was surfing, I would explore tiny shops in little towns, interacting with people while discovering unique treasures.

SB: There is a vintage feel about your pieces. Is that a signature you plan to carry forth through future seasons?
AO: Yes! One of my favorite design styles is to take something old and make it new. I’m a flea market junkie; I love spending days in open-air markets, hoping to stumble across that perfect vintage lamp or sweater that is the inspiration for my next collection.

SB: How would you describe the Cleobella woman?
AO: A Cleobella woman is adaptable to any environment or culture, while remaining true to her eclectic style and femininity.

SB: Could you tell us more about how your line helps support foreign artisans and designers?
AO: We work with very small factories, and have a personal relationship with all our staff. Their livelihood is dependent on the success of Cleobella. They are incredible artisans, and their dedication to detail has always been so impressive to me. They have become my friends because I spend so much time working with them on each design. Also, for the past year Cleobella has been actively donating a percentage of all sales to care.org, specifically helping women in Indonesia and India.

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