Beara Beara is a London-based brand selling women’s and men’s handmade leather bags, handcrafted by experienced crafts men and women in Bolivia. Inspired by old-school British vintage style, we use premium quality leather to create handbags, backpacks, laptop bags, and satchels in black, brown, and more.
The story of our brand starts with a journey through Latin America. As a travel writer at the time, Jake Bullough was living in Bolivia, writing about people's lives whom he encountered. In La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, he met the wonderful Julia, who, along with her extended family, has been making and selling leather bags from a tiny shop in the back streets of the city for many years. Intrigued by the combination of incredible craftsmanship and quality materials, they began collaborating, turning Jake's designs into a collection of never-before-seen handbags.
With Bolivia being such an isolated country, Jake's idea was to provide Julia’s struggling business, and subsequent others, with a substantial amount of work that would bring in much needed finances and eventually improve their standards of living. The idea of encouraging employment has always been a huge motivational factor, and we now provide full- or part-time employment to over 60 people.
Our ever-expanding network of craftsmen is also motivated by the fact that their hard work, skill, and tradition are being appreciated worldwide. To make our bags more unique, we have been using vintage Andean cloths, known locally as ‘aguayos’. All antique aguayos are hand woven and defined by the region where they are made. The art of making these wonderful clothes has been passed down through generations, over hundreds of years, and reflects the history of the indigenous cultures in Bolivia.
Our hope is that everyone who purchases a Beara Beara appreciates the skill, determination, respect and love that goes into making each individual bag. Our products are not only unique but extremely durable made from raw cow hide we source from the lowland areas in Bolivia. We respect the desire to buy high fashion but are pleased to see that there are still plenty of people who appreciate quality and take pride in creating their own individual style.
When we began working with our suppliers, most were caught in a never-ending circle of manufacturing bags that sold for very little and next to no profit. They worked with their small family team in a cluttered outhouse or basement and lacked the knowledge of how to make a business profitable. When we visit our suppliers now, we are proud to see the influence we have had. Gone are the cramped quarters and the antiquated machinery. We do still use traditional techniques to measure, cut, stain, emboss and stitch the leather; however, it is now a time efficient process with less risk and wastage involved. Our workforce has grown significantly and we are delighted to see new faces in the workshops every time we visit.
Our maestros (the most experienced craftsmen) train new younger workers with the skills necessary to create bags to a high quality. Most of the trainees work for several months as an assistant before moving to a permanent position where they are then responsible for their part of the manufacturing process. It is usually quite a calm atmosphere as everyone focuses on their work. But break-time is very different with lots of loud chatter, fussing over siblings and the occasional hysterics. Our workers clock in and out and work around their other life commitments. Many are university students paying for their education by working half-days and weekends, some women only work mornings as they look after their children in the afternoons. We enjoy spending our time with the people that work so hard for us and whom I like to think we reward for that dedication. We have so many plans in the pipeline such as after schools programs, additional workshop facilities and community programs, which we hope to get going over the coming year; however, these things take a lot of planning and we know it's important to take things one step at a time.
We focus on connecting with our customers and try to approach every situation and every day with a set of positive values. These dominate how we work as a team and how we see Beara Beara in relation to society and the world in general. We believe that business is not only a way to make money but is also an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.