The company designs modern raffia handbags that are rooted in the deep heritage of skilled artisans in the Visaya region of the Philippines. The raffia is harvested from the buri palm tree that grows abundantly in this region and is given its colour with water-based dyes. Textiles then come to life on traditional wooden looms, where home-based weavers work their craft, while wooden handles and accents are individually hand made by local carpenters.
"The inspiration behind Ann & Arayata collections is always the artisans, their weaves and techniques and the unique indigenous materials they use. I simply bring my personal design aesthetic to create styles and an overall look to appeal to the contemporary fashion crowd," Stephenson explains to me as I peruse the F/W12 collection.
Translating the trends of fall runways, this season's clutch collection offers a decadent lineup of rich hues, including sumptuous reds, wines, and jewel berry tones. Ann & Arayata has also added hand-loomed scarves and beaded necklaces to the mix as the line continues to expand.
The scarves are woven in a unique ikat pattern, available with or without lurex, to appeal to both men and women. The necklaces feature cascading strands of beads and come in an array of colours including some killer metallic options — perfect for the holiday season. And while we're on the subject of holiday giving, it's worth noting that the company donates a minimum of 10% of its profits to L.I.F.E. For Health, a volunteer-run registered charity working in the Philippines.
Emma Jones is a fashion and entertainment writer based in Toronto. She writes extensively for lifestyle and entertainment outlets, including MSN.ca, About.com Celebrity Style and MTV.com. Obsessed with British street style and vintage finds, when she's not writing (or wasting her Law degree, sorry parents!), Emma can be found scouring Kensington Market thrift stores for band shirts and original must-haves. Her style icons include Fearne Cotton, Alexa Chung, Debbie Harry, and Daria.