Laura Vela’s Argentine Inspiration

The handbag designer was the youngest to show at New York Fashion Week in February.

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Laura Vela has been hitting all the right notes.

This story first appeared in the April 25, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

At 24, the Barcelona-born handbag designer — with less than a year at Parsons the New School for Design under her belt — was the youngest designer to show at New York Fashion Week in February.

After creating a bag for herself while vacationing in Argentina early last year, Vela was so inundated with compliments that friends encouraged her to start her own line, even though it was something she’d never considered as a possible career path, and in August 2010, the designer’s eponymous collection was born.

Vela continues to spend time in Argentina, where she sources all of her leather and manufactures her collection, learning from the craftsmen at local tanneries and taking inspiration from the locale.

“My inspiration mostly comes from nature,” Vela said. “I go to Argentina to relax and be surrounded by nature. I get inspired through that.”

The bohemian, simplistic, yet highly crafted collection, ranging from clutches to totes and over-the-shoulder bucket bags, retails from $300 to $700.

In February, Vela was asked to show her line at the accessories exhibit at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. In addition to special orders placed directly on the brand’s Web site, lauravela.com, e-tailer Shopbop.com snatched up a selection of the spring collection after spotting her collection at the Young Designers Market in Manhattan.

While she shies away from dropping celebrity customer names, Vela noted Sarah Jessica Parker has purchased some of her pieces.

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