Chic bags, Direct From Colombian Tribeswomen

Diego and Thea pictured in their Naples home on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016.

Driven by the desire to help an impoverished tribe of native Colombians, a Naples couple found a new enterprise — selling purses. Thea Mason and her boyfriend, Diego Verney, have started a company selling the colorful, intricately woven purses online through Facebook, at trunk shows and at the Vanderbilt Farmers Market starting Oct. 1.

Their Golden Gate home is now stocked with the splashy bags ready for purchase. Inspired by a Colombian citrus fruit called “lulo,” Mason and Verney named their business “Lula.”

“We’re ready to take our business to the next level,” said Mason, who also works full-time as an interior designer at the Bay Design Store in downtown Naples. Verney was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, and has spent the last 10 years in Florida. He and Mason visited the northern tip of Colombia earlier this year to visit the Wayuu tribe. Stricken by drought and divide, the primitive community has no access to education.

Each design is inspired by something in nature or astrological. And it all goes back to something from the Mother Earth or the universe

“The men don’t work, just the women,” Mason said. “(The women are) also obligated to find water for their people, and food. They are living in the desert without a lot of resources, so they are a poor tribe. After three trips to Colombia, Mason and Verney have collected woven hammocks, wicker hats and about 300 bags of various colors, shapes and styles made by the tribeswomen.

“Each design is inspired by something in nature or astrological. And it all goes back to something from the Mother Earth or the universe,” Mason said. “The bottom of each bag has this circle and that represents the woman’s uterus, and also the universe.”

The  bags are priced between $90 and $110, compared to boutiques across the country that sell the same items for $400. So far, they’ve sold well in Naples. At a recent trunk show, shoppers bought about 50 purses from Lula. And they’re appealing to both men and women. Some of the colors are more muted, while others are yellow and orange and green and decorated with sequins.”There’s literally something for everybody,” Mason said. “There’s a design that works for you, and there’s a color for you, whether you’re a man, woman or child. We have baby bags, too.”

Improving the Wayuu’s quality of life — working as a link between it and customers in the United States — is what drives them to operate Lula.

“We’re donating clothes and water,” Verney said. “Every time we go there we bring clothes. Next time we’ll try to bring some medicine, see if we can help.”