Anima Iris is a new, small luxury handbag brand created by Wilglory Tanjong based out of Dakar, Senegal and Philadelphia, PA. They employ professional artisans to bring colorful and unique designs to life with intense attention to detail and quality. With most of the materials sourced through local Senegalese businesses and following a made-to-order model, it is naturally more sustainable than most other luxury brands (and was even featured in our 10 Sustainable Clothing Brands You Should Know article). It’s affordable price (for a luxury brand) and modern silhouettes make it the perfect accessory to wear this year. We got to briefly speak to Wilglory about the brand and process to get a closer look at what makes them unique.
What pushed you towards sustainability?
I think something people don’t realize is that African people and therefore fashion, is inherently sustainable. Africans HATE waste and we are very creative and innovative about managing it. Many individual families on the continent don’t exist with an excess of things. People usually have just what they need and are always thinking about how to stretch it even further. That’s where the ingenuity comes in. Many things are made by hand in the fashion industry because most countries don’t have the same mass-production industrial machines. Since we hate waste, we’re constantly trying to figure out how to get the most use out of any material. Before I even let my artisans know that we were a sustainable company, they were already keeping all the remaining leather from each bag. They never threw it away because they knew it could still be used to make other things.
How do you maneuver using all the remaining leather? Have you specifically been designing handbags with those leftover pieces in mind?
We haven’t started using them yet, just saving. We plan to turn them into wallets, keychains, and then the scraps from those projects will be used for furniture, like a futon.
Do you feel like the brand has grown faster than you anticipated? How have you been able to adjust to the rapid demand for your bags?
I’ve had to pivot and expand the team, as well as build relationships with DHL for faster shipping. I’ve also sourced a new leather supplier that could provide us larger quantities so that we had a lower turnover rate. For example, most of our leathers can only make 3-4 bags. People get really upset when a bag they love is out of stock. So now we can make upwards of 20. We’re expanding alongside demand while still remaining environmentally cautious.
What, in your opinion, has been the most fun bag to create?
I’m not sure, actually. Each bag has gone through many changes and the process has always been different. The ZAZA was what brought me and my current main artisan together. He made the bag even better. With the ZURI we’ve changed the handle size, materials and cut it in different ways many times just to get it right... then the ZAZA Grande. The handle was something I literally pulled from my inspiration board and my artisans brought it to life. The ZARIA came to life from a shape I saw in a Facebook ad. I literally pulled a magazine apart and taped the bag together and brought it to my artisan and said “okay, now build this into a bag, please”.
Each bag has its own story and each story has had its ups and downs but it’s gotten me to where I am now and I love them all so so much.
It’s so inspiring to see you speak with such love for your products. What are some design elements you haven’t used in the past that you’d be interested in working with?
I’m currently working with metal for our next bag! I thought it would be a good way to elevate the design of the bag.
The newest ZURI Gold bag will be launching soon. Anima Iris’ upcoming launch utilizes metal in the handle design showing some creative insights that go into Wilgory's designs. You can check out behind the scenes of the shoot on their Instagram.