A good juggler will never reveal which ball is highest in priority; success is earned when he finds a way to balance them all. This is a true testament of Leonie Lawrence, full-time educator, graduate student, and creative director of Shades of Lola, a new Afrocentric purse and jewellery brand making waves on the fashion scene.
Shades of Lola — launched in March this year — is the brainchild of Lawrence, who saw an opportunity to capitalise on her coveted eccentric style. “My personal style is unconventional, and so many individuals would stop me and inquire about the Afrocentric statement pieces I wore. I saw this as an opportunity to help other women embody African culture and beauty through fashion,” she told All Woman Fashion (AWF).
Lawrence is no business neophyte. Raised in the rural community of Corn Piece Settlement, Hayes, Clarendon, while her 14-year-old peers at Clarendon College in Chapelton, Clarendon were busy being regular teenagers, Lewis had already started her first business venture. “My first venture at age 14 began as a commissioned sales rep for skincare products and I later matriculated to selling shoes, statement jewellery, being a part-time student/hair stylist and offering proofreading, research and editing services at a price, to my peers and other students. I learnt lessons of resilience, creativity, and passion from my entrepreneurial mother who operated her own organic food shop and chicken farm,” she said.
“I was, too,” she continued, “the eldest of four siblings and led by example. I became in 2013 my family's first university graduate with a BSc in Applied Science, with a major in Environmental Science from the University of Technology, Jamaica”. She is now pursuing a Master of Education in Instructional Design and Technology at the American College of Education, Indiana.
Shades of Lola specialises in vibrantly printed, handcrafted purses inspired by Africa. “All my fabrics are sourced in West Africa; specifically, Mali, Nigeria, and Ghana. I have a primary supplier who hand-picks all my fabrics from the local marketplace and ships them to Jamaica,” she shared. The purses are then made at a small facilty in Portmore, Jamaica.
If you are environmentally conscious like Lawrence, her vegan or faux-leather creations will fit right into your wardrobe. “As an environmentalist I advocate for ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly production; for this reason I use vegan leather which is derived from materials such as cork, barkcloth, glazed cotton, waxed cotton, and paper,” she informed.
Large, exposed zippers are key features of Lawrence's designs and distinguishes her collection from others on the market. Her purses are multi-functional; many are designed with removable chain straps that allow for a seamless transition from a daytime shoulder bag to a sophisticated girls' night out clutch.
Shades of Lola jewellery pieces are collected from various artisans across the world and feature natural stones, oblong metals, wood, and beads.
Lawrence can be contacted through Instagram @_shadesoflola_ or at The Artisan Store, Shop 64, Sovereign Centre, 106 Hope Road, Kingston.