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Specializing in luxury accessories made with Italian and Brazilian leather, TOLA is a new-to-Chicago company founded by four women. All the items are handcrafted in a collective studio space at 2300 North Knox, where the company's co-founders are elbow-deep in exotic skins each day.
The name TOLA is an acronym for the first names of those four partners: Teresa Kuriata, Olena Petyurenko, Laurie Roberts, and Agnes Kula. So, what inspired the business? "We all love to shop for quality products, so we began designing them," says Roberts, who's the company's president. Pleased with the designs they were churning out, the ladies decided to share them—and voila, a business was born.
Officially launched earlier this month, TOLA has a range of women and men's accessories including hair-on-hide and leather purses, wallets, ties, and iphone and ipad holders. The goods come in a variety of colors and textures, including python and crocodile skins, and the men's ties are customizable and made with 100% Italian wool.
Already designing for the spring, the four women all create sketches, then hold a group meeting to pick a few items to make prototypes of. When a prototype is ready, Roberts gives it a test run by wearing the accessory around town—which, she admits, isn't a bad gig.
The 6,200-square-foot Chicago studio is itself an inspiration in their design process. The studio takes up the entire side of a building, and has massive old skylights and a rustic, industrial feel. "We love things a little more urban," Roberts explains. "We love the streets, great preserved old buildings, and finding great spaces."
The collective space also houses Roberts' other business: Primo Interiors, a company for high-end pillows, bedding, and draperies. Artist Larry Roberts, Laurie's husband, has a studio in the space as well.
Excited about the skylight-decked venue—and, of course, their new line—the TOLA Chicago founders are hosting a party on November 21 to introduce the studio to retailers, clients and friends. They are planning partner with more retailers, as well but in the meantime you can fulfill your TOLA cravings online or at select stores. —Lily Montasser
· TOLA Chicago [Official Site]