Posted by Ashling Moss
Cleobella is a line of eclectic bags, clutches, and jewelry that reflect the gypsy lifestyle. Bringing modern luxury to bohemian style, Cleobella uses washed leathers, vintage ikat fabrics and recycled antique hardwares, to make these hand-made/hand-crafted styles, works of art. Esteemed retailers worldwide have embraced Cleobella, as they continue to uphold a reputation of being impeccable in quality and unique in design.
Angela O’Brien, alongside her husband Jim, officially launched Cleobella in 2008 after traveling the world for a solid year. The name Cleobella comes from Angela’s Northern Ireland-born mother, Cleobelle. While in Bali, O’Brien was inspired by the unique fabrics and beads at local markets and designed the line’s first piece, the Mexicana clutch. A large wallet with several pockets and zippers, the Mexicana was perfect for day and night. It is now Cleobella’s signature piece.
Angela has since added hundreds of bags and clutches to the line, and has evolved into home decor and jewelry. Cleobella’s first retail boutique is located in Sunset Beach, California. The exotic 1,200 square-foot space is steps from the beach and bursting with beautiful bags, jewelry and clothing.
I had the privilege of interviewing local free spirit, Angela O’Brien at her Sunset Beach boutique.
Me: The first boutique/show room you decided to open locally in Sunset Beach, any plans on opening more?
Angela: We live in Seal Beach, so it just made sense. I thought – why not just do it here and maybe branch-out later. I can see us opening a boutique in Bali. We spend so much time there and have all the resources. That would be a dream. I have also thought about opening another location in the LA area – I love the Abbot Kinny/Venice area. Also in New York – we have a show room in NYC and are there 3-4 times a year and it would be so cool to have a boutique in Soho. Someday…
Me: Tell me about CARE?
Angela: In my travels, I see so many women working incredibly hard all-day-long. For instance, in India, women pack the dung patties (manure) all day in their beautiful saris – and in Bali women haul huge, heavy water jugs on their heads. I wanted to be affiliated with a cause that would help these women. After all they are the ones who help make my dreams come true – building and detailing my hand-beaded bags that take weeks to make. So we wanted to give back and specifically donate to Southeast Asia. It just made sense. We also donate to local charities as well because I think that is so important.
Me: Where does your design inspiration come from?
Angela: My grandmother is an incredible artist so I have grown up around art all my life. I have been painting since I was little – I paint with oils. Whenever I am designing a collection, I start with a theme or story. It helps me wrap my mind around a concept. Often times that can be a travel destination we have been to. For example we are heading to India in late October, so Fall 2013 will be inspired by India.
Me: What was the inspiration behind Fall 2012?
Angela: It was Cleopatra goes to Bali. I was envisioning – if Cleopatra was alive – what would her experience be in Bali. The collection is very rich in metallics and suedes, but still has that bohemian, rustic chic feel to it. We just finishing Spring 2013, which was inspired by the South Pacific/Australia and consists of a lot of pastels and neons.
Me: Do you try to keep up with the trends or create your own?
Angela: I don’t have access to the trend reports like bigger businesses do. I tend to sometimes fall into the right trends. For instance, if it is a certain color that I am feeling and it just happens to be the color for the season. I try not to be too influenced because then everything becomes generic and I would rather be inspired by something that is more original.
Me: Who is the Cleobella girl?
Angela: I think she is playful, worldly,whimsical – inspired by life. Our bags are such statement pieces so she has a relaxed, casual style but always adds a “conversation piece”.
Me: Who are some of your favorite designers?
Angela: A lot of my girlfriends are my favorite designers. Right now I am wearing my girlfriends line, Summer of 78. She is a dear friend of mine. I have a lot of girlfriends in the business and love wearing and trading product.
Me: What is your favorite piece you have designed?
Angela: It is still my Mexicana clutch. It is still such a great seller and has become such a signature of our brand. It is very practical and I can recreate it over and over again. The price point is really good for the time and detail that goes into it and I love that no two are the same.
Me: Favorite beauty tip or trick?
Angela: I am a big believer of Organic Coconut Oil. I put it on my hair, my skin – I used it while pregnant to avoid stretch marks, I put it on my baby and even cook with it. I get it from Whole Foods. I have one in my shower, by my sink and in my kitchen.
Me: Where do you see Cleobella in 10 years?
Angela: Well, I would love to expand in other categories. Home decor is my passion. Two seasons ago, we did a collection of pillows for Barneys. We took the inspiration from our bags and made them into pillows, a Mexicana, a studded Nevaeh, fringe, and a chevron design from the Hudson Envelope. Right now we are gearing up for a sale with One Kings Lane. We are doing a collection of Ecote pillows, hand-selected by me. In the future, clothing would be a dream.
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