Last April, Allyson Holleb (a former buyer for Eileen Fisher) turned an abandoned bakery-equipment shop into a hip handbag boutique. She named the shop Bess and Loie after her two fashion-savvy grandmothers. And in a truly grandmotherly gesture, Holleb keeps her shoppers plied with cookies and snacks as they browse.
Holleb’s thing for bags began on a trip to Paris, where the accessories she found in little boutiques plunged her into a fashionable love affair. Now, in a seemingly fateful turn of events, Bess and Loie is the first store in Illinois to carry bags from Dognin Paris. “I fell in love with the craftsmanship of the bags,” Holleb says. “They have great design features that are so well thought out. For instance, most of the bags have rubber bottoms that protect the leather, but it’s done in such a way that the rubber isn’t visible, so it doesn’t take away from the design. It’s details like these that add great life to a bag.” She continues: “[The bags come in] a great selection of colors and designs, and they have adjustable straps that are padded. The list just goes on!”
For those unfamiliar with the line (and you’re not the only ones—the bags were not available in the U.S. until last February), here’s a bit of history:
The bags’ creator, Luc Dognin, has an intrinsic eye for design—his family has run a lace factory in Lyon since 1805. When he was 27, Dognin moved to Paris and found work designing leather accessories for Céline. By 2000, Dognin was ready to do his own thing. And that was when he met marketing savant Rafik Mahiout, a like-minded lover of modern design. “Both Rafik and I had a strong desire to bring fireworks back onto the fashion scene,” Dognin says, with passion befitting a Parisian.
The duo partnered up to create a handbag line focused on practical design and eye-pleasing aesthetics. With leather exteriors and contrast lining, the modern bags offer cleverly placed pockets to store cell phones and keys. Brand snobs take note: Dognin’s bags are made with the same leather used by the house of Hermès. (Jennifer Berg)
Bess and Loie, 1015 West Lake, (312)226-2247; for more on the bags, log onto dogninparis.com.