A visit to Mexico started a lifelong connection for Northern Beaches’ Fiona Kettle, and soon a beautiful partnership blossomed. Here’s the story behind Bella Rosa Mexico’s handmade boho bags, which you’ve probably admired at local markets…
On a road trip through Mexico in the early 2000’s, Beaches’ local Fiona Kettle purchased a handmade vintage-style bag in Baja California. It became not only her favourite accessory and memento of her holiday but inspired her to find out more about how the bag was made.
“It was handcrafted raw leather with hand painted flowers on it, I totally loved it and basically that bag is the basis of wanting to start a business, as I have never seen one here before,” she says.
With her partner Andres Zarate, the pair saw a way to support a local indigenous Mexican community and start their own business for themselves based here on the Beaches. They called the business Bella Rosa Mexico, and set about sourcing authentic, handmade and hand tooled leather bags, all crafted by Mexican artisans.
“We were travelling in the south of Mexico and we came across a small town where locals make handcrafts out of leather along with many other products, and it basically went from there.”
The community that makes the bags speak a Mayan dialect and Andres, who hails from a small community in Mexico, is the sole communicator as his first language is Spanish.
“There is no internet or Wi-Fi in the community either so we have to wait until the workshop owner is in the local town to send us pictures and an invoice on a piece of paper. Sometimes some bags don’t turn up that we ordered, or the order is wrong, but that’s OK as it’s all part of the charm and that’s just the way it is!” says Fiona.
At the first market stall they only sold one small bag and the marquee blew away in the wind, but comments from passers-by motivated them to keep going.
“We had a lot of barriers to overcome at the start,” recalls Fiona. “We brought 20 sample bags back with us from Mexico and set up a market stall, having no idea what we were doing, to see if people actually liked our bags. Luckily people did and it ventured from there.”
Having been regulars at local markets around the Northern Beaches, COVID lockdowns meant the business had to make a quick transition to set up a website online and promote on social platforms, and they reached a new audience in the process.
As more people seek authentic and sustainable fashion options, Fiona says Bella Rosa Mexico’s range of hand-made products are proving popular, with the larger bags Carla and Luna among the best sellers.
“More people are understanding that fast, cheap, mass-produced products are disposable and aren’t suitable for the life we lead. By purchasing sustainable, authentic items, you are buying a product that someone has personally taken the time to create, is going to last, and the money goes back to the person who actually made it.”
Boho chic is the epitome of a coastal lifestyle, so it’s wonderful that the Beaches’ community can shop local and make a difference this Christmas by supporting this Northern Beaches small business.
“We have something for everyone, and a lot of our bags are perfect for summer and make great gifts if you’re looking for something special for someone. We have also added new hand tooled purses and hand tooled belts in time for Christmas, and soon we will be launching our Silver Jewellery collection from Mexico too.”
You can visit Bella Rosa Mexico online below, or click below for Market dates and locations.