Bess & Loie

1015 W. Lake


Allyson Holleb’s obsession with bags started in 1997, when she went to Paris for the year: she couldn’t always fit into clothes sized for little French women, so she sated her consumer lust with accessories. Now she has so many bags that her own mother refers to her as Imelda. A former buyer for Eileen Fisher’s retail stores in New York, she opened Bess & Loie last week to feed other people’s jones for arm candy. Named after her grandmothers, the former bakery-equipment shop is furnished with old family photos, vintage suitcases, and even some of her ancestors’ furniture, and the kitchen is stocked with free snacks and drinks for browsers. Holleb doesn’t pay too much attention to designer labels (“Who cares, as long as you like it,” she says), so while she does carry an unusual bright blue pear-shaped leather bag by buzzy Brooklyn label Hayden-Harnett, you’ll also find a log-shaped white leather specimen decorated with stripes and a metal eagle by the relatively unknown Laura Matthews Designs and roomy, rope-handled totes made from old sails by Maine’s Sea Bags. The small jewelry collection includes simple necklaces with cloisonne pendants and semiprecious stones by local designer Joann Lysiak. The bags run from $200 to $800 and the jewelry tops out at $250. Holleb’s also planning to stock men’s accessories, like ties and cufflinks, and has considered expanding into shoes–“but then I’d have to deal with sizing and all that.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mireya Acierto.