A young Donegal designer is looking forward to spending this season in her studio as her accessories brand takes off.
Orla O’Hagan, aged 24, is already feeling the positive impact of ‘Shop Local’ campaigns as orders come in for Christmas 2020. Her handmade leather bags and accessories are stylish gifts with a strong sustainability message, what’s not to love?
Hailing from Buncrana, Orla had been working as a shoe and bag designer with Sophia Webster in London before being made redundant due to Covid-19. Orla had already made the move home, so she took the opportunity in September to switch her focus to her own brand – Orla Vera.
The current Orla Vera collection includes sustainable leather tote bags, cross body bags, men’s wallets, card holders and mini bags for kids. The surge in popularity and orders has been an exciting experience, she said.
“I’m selling on Facebook and Instagram at the moment and it’s going so well. People seem to really like them. Anyone will tell you, I am so shocked anytime I get an order,” Orla tells Donegal Woman.
The long-lasting quality of the bags and the handmade production process are big draws for conscious buyers.
Orla said: “All of our accessories are made from 100% real leather. The leather is sourced as remnant leather which means: larger companies will buy skins to dye them and if the colour is slightly off or damaged it gets destroyed, which means thousands of skins are wasted
“I buy those skins and give them a purpose instead of them ending up in landfill. I love working with leather and when you buy a quality-made luxury leather accessory you are also reducing your carbon footprint. Remember – leather will last for years if you look after it.”
This approach also means that most Orla Vera bags and accessories are limited edition, as she works with a limited amount of a certain colour. She puts her own production waste to good use too, in the form of small items like scrunchies!
Orla Vera has been in development for almost two years since Orla’s college days. She was studying Footwear and Accessories in Leicester when she decided to tap into her skills to create special presents for her family.
“Coming up to Christmas I was a skint student, I couldn’t buy presents so I got some leather and made my mum and sister two bags.
“My sister Ella was wearing her bag on Christmas nights out and people were asking her about it. I was taking mum’s out too and people were asking me where I got mine. The next summer I started making the bags from home for friends.”
Christmas this year will have less nights out and more working from home, but Orla is excited to knuckle down and fulfil all her orders in her studio.
“It’s great to see people are supporting local, I know I’m going to do all my shopping locally this year,” Orla said.
Check out Orla Vera on