Leonor handbag
Credit: Time Inc. Digital Studios

When Leonor designer Ana Maria Plata begin making her own handbags, she wanted to create pieces that not only give back to the artisans who produce them, but also tell the story of her native Colombia's rich cultural tradition. Her intricate and socially conscious designs earned her a nod as the winner of the FASHION 4 DEVELOPMENT Most Socially Responsible Handbag at the 2015 Independent Handbag Designer Awards, sponsored by Handbag Designer 101 and InStyle. "We have now an additional responsibility and this is a great opportunity to give more to the community," Plata says about the women of the Kuna tribe who hand-stitch her materials. "We are in the process of establishing a help channel to work towards improving certain needs of the community." Read on to learn all the details that go into making these cool bucket bags, then watch the video to see Plata's designs come to life.

Let's start with your inspiration. Where did you get your design idea for the winning bag?

"The Múcura bag finds its inspiration in a clay object called múcura, which is the Spanish word for a type of clay canteen used by native tribes originally to carry water to and from their village. It has since taken on a greater meaning. It is also symbol for femininity and carries great symbolic power. The bag itself is designed in the shape featuring a wide bottom and narrowing at the top."

Each of your bags is completely unique. Why is that?

"The process of making each mola, which is the handmade patterned fabric hand-stitched by the women of the Kuna tribe that we feature in our bags, is a completely artisan process, and a intricate part of the Kuna traditional culture and rituals. Each women starts a mola from scratch in their family hut. While they take care of their families they sit down and start sewing with no pattern to follow. They just decide which colors, fabrics and patterns to make for each mola. This is the reason why there is no two molas alike, and the reason of why each one of our handbags is completely unique from one another."

What's your biggest challenge in producing your bags?

"In our society we are used to a very fast-paced environment where immediacy is very important and we want everything very quick. In the production for my bags, just the process of creating a mola is very time consuming for the women that make them. It is a very detailed process that cannot be rushed because of the nature of the mola. The women from the Kuna work at their own pace, therefore is very difficult to control the amount of molas we get. As we want to respect their traditions, culture, and craftsmanship, we adjust our production to the molas we receive and work around the color and patterns in the molas."