NEW YORK — Cornelia Guest is out to turn her love of animals into a business.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Guest, a committed vegan who has never made a secret of her passion for dogs and animals of all kinds (she owns nine dogs, a tortoise and a donkey, named Madonna), has launched a collection of vegan handbags and small leather-free items for fall as another step in building a lifestyle company based on her beliefs.

Her first collection comprises 12 styles (there are six larger and six smaller shapes) that will range in price from $39 to $59 at retail for zip pouches to $285 for a woven, overnight bag. Silhouettes include hobos, satchels, a convertible crossbody messenger, a briefcase, pouchettes, cosmetic cases, an iPad case and an evening bag — available in a color palette of seasonal neutrals such as black, brown, navy, gray, burgundy and slate.

The socialite also maintains a thriving catering business, Cornelia Guest Events, and vegan cookie line, Cornelia Guest Cookies, and is currently finishing up a seasonal lifestyle book due out next spring that is being shot by Bruce Weber and contains a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes. She said turning her eye to design was a natural next step.

“I want to do it all. I want to give people an intelligent alternative,” Guest said at her New York City showroom last week. “It’s fashion that’s accessible to everyone.”

Every piece in the line is priced under $300, a conscious decision on behalf of Guest. She holds up a blush-colored sequin evening bag with an enlarged gemstone clasp and a satin and chain strap, which will retail for $160. There’s also a $145 messenger bag that transforms into an evening clutch, wallets that start at $110 and cosmetic pouches that will cost $50 to $60.

Bloomingdale’s has picked up the collection, and five of the 12 styles — exclusive to the retailer — will hit shelves at three locations in the fall, including the retailer’s 59th Street flagship in New York.

“Bloomingdale’s loved the line because we were drawn to the chic aesthetic, as well as Cornelia’s sophisticated color palette,” said Bloomingdale’s fashion accessories director Brooke Jaffe. “We felt there was a great deal of value for our customer. For fall, there is a return to sophisticated glamour and these bags are it. The line will appeal to a range of shoppers, from someone simply looking for a stylish handbag to our environmentally aware consumer who will be drawn to that aspect of the collection.”

Guest aspires to become the top-selling eco-friendly accessory brand one day, and she looks to other female designers who’ve paved the way, such as Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney.

“Look what they’ve done,” she said. “It’s much easier to make healthier choices today. I’m really proud of [the collection]. I want consumers to know that there’s a beautiful alternative. This is it. This is just the start of it.”

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