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Meet the SF Handbag Designer Who's So Good She Won a Car

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When we first met Roseli Ilano, we immediately bonded over oxford brogue shoes and tomboy chic style. The bubbly, uber-friendly designer balances a menswear vibe with feminine charm like a pro when it comes to her personal style, and that tough meets delicate vibe also prevails in her eponymous line of handbags and home goods, Ilano.

The California native and Bay Area resident recruits artisans from around the world to create her designs, paying well above their country's minimum wage for their labors. The business got serious momentum in 2013 when she won an entrepreneur competition (which came with a car!), and Roseli has exciting new designs in the pipeline for this year. Check out our interview below to find out how she's tricking out that car she won, her dream client, and what she has planned for her next collection!

Where are you from and where do you live now?
"My childhood was filled with constant movement, I grew up shuttling between six different Southern California cities! I consider Oakland my home because it is where I have roots. There is such a vibrant community of creatives, change-makers, and innovators here and I am so lucky to call myself part of it since the age of 17."

What are the three most important moments or experiences in your life that led you to launching Ilano?
"First and foremost, hearing the stories my grandmother told me planted the entrepreneurial seed at a very young age. She was a truly inspiring woman who ran a similar business in the Philippines, designing furniture and partnering with local artisans in her small hometown to weave modern bed frames, chairs, and tables out of raffia and jute. Now that she's gone, I try to embody her passion.

In March of 2013, I was awarded the Scion Motivate Competition for Young Entrepreneurs, sponsored by the Scion Motor Company. I was selected out of 1,700 hopefuls and won seed money, a car and a mentor. I believe my passion for the mission of ILANO stood out to the judges, and my biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs starting out is to never lose sight of your mission. I am proud to say we pay our artisans seven times their country's national minimum wage and I believe that design and style should not be compromised for sustainable jobs and eco-friendly construction. Walking on the stage to accept the award was an incredible validation that I was doing something right!

One of the earliest fans of ILANO was celeb stylist Dree Harper. She sent me a heartfelt note that encouraged me to follow my passion. I felt like I had come full circle, here was someone in the fashion industry who I sincerely admired and looked up to and she said she loved the bags! She has impeccable taste, so it meant a lot to get her encouragement."

What are your dream stores where you hope Ilano will be sold one day?
"ILANO products are artisan made—truly made in small batches, and each bag given care and loving attention. I would love ILANO to be sold at boutiques that curate products that are storied, and I would love to be at boutiques that I shop at myself! I adore Reliquary in San Francisco, Totokaelo in Seattle, Mohawk General Store in Los Angeles. Eventually I would love to design a capsule collection of accessories for Anthropologie and home goods for West Elm."

Who is your dream customer, someone you'd love to see carrying one of your bags?
"My dream customer is Argentine Stylist and fashion blogger fave Marina Muñoz. She commands a presence by being comfortable in her own skin. She strikes such a balance of tomboy and chic, and I love the ruggedness of her styling. (If you're reading this Marina call me, I'm your biggest fan!)"

What's next for Ilano? Will you be designing more collections soon?
"Yes, I have lots of ideas! First on the list is getting my new Scion upholstered in ILANO textiles. We spend so much time in our cars, why not accessorize them too, right? You can expect utilitarian bags: an assortment of his and hers backpacks, bicycle accessories and weekenders made with our Oaxacan textiles. The concept of ILANO is to partner with women weavers from around the globe, so our next collaboration will be with weavers in the Philippines."
· Ilano [Official Site]
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