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Venezuelan accessories designer Yliana Yepez used something she knows a lot about to raise awareness for the escalating violence in her home country — the handbag.
The former model launched Blues by KyKy in 1993, a contemporary handbag line that grew into a retail business in South America as well as in New York. Troubled by increasing unrest, violence and danger in Venezuela, she relocated with her family to New York in 2009 and finally shuttered Blues by KyKy in late 2012 while simultaneously launching a namesake brand.
With her new venture, she launched a more luxe, upscale line that would translate better for the New York market. It started to hit retail last August and is now carried in a number of Bloomingdale’s doors as well as Prologue Lifestyle in Toronto.
While the designer has been happily adjusting to life with her family in New York, the issues facing her fellow countrymen back in Venezuela continue to concern her. She heard about a new wave of violence and severe protests there over food shortages, the declining health care system and inflation in mid-February. She was in the midst of fashion week festivities, but felt conflicted that no one around her knew what was happening in her country. So she decided to design one of her signature Mini Giovanna bags in the colors of the Venezuelan flag — yellow with red and blue accents — to call attention to the political turmoil.
She started Instagramming the bag to get the attention of the industry. The designer plans to donate all proceeds of the sale of the bag to Fundación Sanando, a nonprofit organization that distributes medical supplies and addresses issues concerning health care. The Mini Giovanna Venezuela will retail for $695 at ylianayepez.com.
Her collection, all handmade in Italy, consists of totes, clutches, cross-body bags and large and mini backpacks. Most recently, Yliana launched minaudières called Grace in eight satin hues — red, teal, navy, gray, Champagne, black, wine and amethyst — black python-embossed leather and metallic python, all framed with 64 Swarovski crystals. The satin clutch retails for $1,250, the embossed python for $995 and the python clutch for $1,650.