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Nothing says glamour more

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Think of Hercule Poirot’s crocodile luggage stacked high on the platform beside the Orient Express or the lizard clutches carried by Hollywood legends Marilyn Monroe or Betty Grable. Somehow they speak of a world where chic counted and utilitarianism counted for nothing.

Whether it is a cavernous tote or a neat evening bag, these accessories have always been essential in the wardrobes of any elegant woman worth her fashion salt. For decades though the hefty price tag has put these covetable bags out of reach for most avid style hunters. Now, a leading Danish fashion brand has produced a range of totes, shoulder bags and clutches that is both breath taking and within our budgets. Naledi Copenhagen has broken the mould when it come to affordable luxury and it has done it without breaking the bank and – critically  – will not trouble the consciences of fashion mavens who like to keep their ec0-credentials as pristine as their purses.

The brand promises luxury with a conscience – and it delivers. The label’s signature ostrich skin is a by-product of a farmed animal so it supports communities in rural South Africa where employment can be a matter of life or death.

Now it is set to enhance its integrity again with its elegant Leseli bag. The bag is stunning in its simplicity but a percentage of the sales will help fund the international Tutu Foundation based in the country where it was first conceived, South Africa.

“We wanted to support a South African charity because that is the country where we conceived our brand. The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation seemed a natural fit for us because it supports both local and international projects and has impeccable provenance,” said Mary Sini, one of the co-founders of the brand.

“We wanted to create a bag for them using Ostrich because Ostrich farming is one South Africa’s success stories. The country certainly has its problems in many areas – but its Ostrich farms are a model of sustainability and provide crucial employment for communities, which without this, would have little economic foundation.

“We called the bag Leseli because that is the word for “light” in Sotho, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa. It seemed exactly the right name for our bag – simple, pure and striking.

“Tutu has always said that rather than curse the darkness light a candle – so this seemed the perfect name for a bag which we hope will come to be the accessory of choice for women that want to have impeccable style without compromising the environment or their workforce.

“This collaboration with the Foundation bridges so many topical issues bringing charity and fashion, sustainability and design together and showing how even a small company can make a difference.”

Her business partner, Copenhagen-based Natalka Hansen, explained, “The buying behaviour of today’s sophisticated high-end consumer is changing. An increasing number of women are seeking unique luxury labels but they want them to have some meaning.

“A cornerstone of our philosophy is artisanal manufacturing. We want to support small manufacturers, preserve rare skills and avoid over production. It is important to us that we establish long-term relationships because we know that is what underpins quality and allows customisation. We have a sustainable, luxury brand which can compete with the best international labels,” she added

Mary Sini and Natalka Hansen reflect their brand very precisely.

They met as neighbours in South Africa and became firm friends. They both had high-level corporate careers and both have impressive academic qualifications – Mary has a degree in Astrophysics and Natalka has one in Political Science. But the combination of the beautiful ostrich leather and the prospect of artisan manufacturing in South Africa tempted them away from the C-suite and put them firmly on the front row.

“We fell in love with South Africa which has become our second home. We are the biggest believers in South Africa’s future but we also see the challenges. Crime is a big issue and is directly related to unemployment. Jobs are hard to find especially in rural areas. Ostrich farming is one solution that can make a very big difference,” said Natalka.

In fact, ostrich farming has already created thousands of jobs in the rural communities of the Western and Eastern Cape.

The real beauty of the entire set-up is that ostriches are amongst the most ecologically sound animals to farm. Everything is used; the breast-skins, the leg-skins, the meat, the feathers and the eggs.

Naledi is the only international brand that focuses on the leg skins. These skins look like python but do not come from an endangered species. They take the spectacular dyes used by the label like a dream. No block colours just beautiful, naturally graded colour.  It is hardly surprising that their signature cluthes have made their way on to the Red Carpet in the hands of the Danish Royal Princesses, actresses and celebrities; women who want high style with ethics.