Handbag Tips from Donnellas Closet

Donnella Tilery, owner of Donnella's Closet
Donnella Tilery, owner of Donnella's Closet

LoveToKnow Handbags was able to gather some really useful handbag tips from Donnella's Closet owner Donnella Tilery. Donnella specializes in women's accessories and has some insider tips on what is popular in the fashion world at the moment.

About Donnella Tilery

Love To Know (LTK): Tell us about yourself as a child. Did you always have an interest in fashion?

Donnella Tilery (DT): I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was probably one of the last people in high school you'd consider a fashionista! However, my mother sewed everything, and I loved bright colors, fun patterns and looking different from the urban stuff my friends wore. I also remember watching VideoFashion Television and the New York fashion show previews every weekend, at one in the morning and saying, "Wow, what else is out there? Who makes this stuff in NY?"

When I finally decided to move to NY, like most people, you gain such amazing access to the world of fashion, I knew within one year, I had to stay here and indulge and learn more.

LTK: When did you first decide to specialize in women's accessories, such as handbags?

DT: Many moons ago, as a corporate trainer, I traveled days and weeks at a time to destinations like Europe, Brazil and of course across the United States -- anyone who travels regularly as part of your career, does one of two things, eat or shop, between appointments.

I quickly decide to shop a bit, since it motivated me to stay in the gym and try on adorable clothes and accessories rather than eat and gain weight due to luscious hotel desserts and client dinners!

In particular I gravitated to accessories because I loved finding gorgeous handbags and accessories that I could easily carry back home with me. I remember going to Toronto and seeing amazing boutiques that featured their regional artists. When I would come home, my friends and associates would ask me where I got these things and mentioned how they would love to come over and "see my closet". Pretty soon, I was personal shopping for everyone, picking up handbags, jewelry and anything I thought suited their personality and was truly unique or just plain fashionably cool. I wondered about women that didn't have a chance to go to New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo or even Minneapolis, so I decided Donnella's Closet was a perfect need, giving women access anytime to global trends, right out of my closet.

LTK: Fashion Group International has nominated you for their Rising Star in Retail award. Tell us a little about this...

DT: This was an unexpected and wonderful honor - as you must be nominated by industry peers because of the potential they see in your brand, vision and company. I've worked so hard, even using my personal savings to begin Donnella's Closet. Receiving this acknowledgement, whether I win in my category or not, is all worth it.

Upcoming Trends and Handbag Tips from Donnella's Closet

Blue Hobo Canvas Handbag with Front Pockets
Blue Hobo Canvas with Front Pockets

LTK: What do you think will be some of spring and summer's hot trends and how can readers use your handbags to help pull their look together?

DT: I am really excited about spring/summer 2010 collections in accessories -- and of course clothing, too. I am attending shows during Fashion Week and already you see in previews this amazing refreshing resurgence of colors - in particular soft pastels that really any woman would find inviting, feminine and flattering. I think the last couple of seasons were so dark and heavy, so this year will be a bit more playful for us with colors.

The recent Emmys were a great example of this - think about Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas. She wore this amazing lavender dress. It was sexy, cool and sophisticated. Even Michelle Obama wore a lavender gown a la Peter Soronsen that proved strength and softness are two of a woman's best qualities.

Many of the handbags I am purchasing for shopdonnella.com are following the same idea - soft colors with a bit of edge. For example, you might see details like stud and ruffles. The idea is something not too opulent but still a great way to upgrade your wardrobe, especially since many of us are watching our wallets with caution until vacation time! I also see gorgeous blues, ranging from baby blue to indigo in bags combined with tan detailing in handles. You'll see shimmery golds and silvers, but a bit toned down so you can carry your glossy bag during the day and even to work, without feeling like you are doing the walk of shame from the night before.

Not to mention I also feature gorgeous earrings - like a pair of blue jade 18k gold earrings for only $23.00 from a popular Hawaiian designer that I worked with for years, as well as some amazing sterling silver bangles in crystal and onyx. These are great statement pieces and good gift ideas.

Dressing for Success

Image of gold, multi-hoop earrings
Earrings to match your new handbag

LTK: If a woman wanted to know how to dress for success, what would you tell her?

DT: The one thing I learned, that many people over look is knowing your shape and being realistic with your body type. Many women get frustrated because they see trends and want to wear them and sometimes harem pants or mini-skirts aren't right for your body. In particular, people forget or shy away from accessories - which is another reason why I began Donnella's Closet. Accessories many times are the missing pieces women need to express their style and personality, especially if they work in more conservative industries.

By using accessories, you can explore color combinations, expand your wardrobe and look thinner by using a belt, handbag or whatever - in the right proportion!

What Your Handbag Choice Says About Your Personality

Red Canvas Tote with Rope Handles
Red Canvas Tote

LTK: You mentioned that you can tell us a little about what your handbag choice says about your personality. I'd love to hear more about this...

DT: Sure, I think that's also one of the things that people love about Donnella's Closet. I have clients that are not "fashionistas" per say but are very into the environment so love to purchase my available eco-friendly messenger bags. These bags are made from refurbished mosquito netting with a portion of the wholesale going to the village that makes them. One client purchased this bag because it represented something she believed in and it was perfect to carry her laptop.

I think there is more than purchasing a bag for its name, it's about what fits your life and how it works for you as a style. If you look down the street, and look at several women, you can get an idea of how they feel that day. A mom may have a chic baby bag, showing she appreciates fashion and functionality. Or, you'll see a woman over 50 with a bag with chains, bright color and texture, saying she loves style and doesn't conform to a stereotype. Even the size of the bag can give you an idea of if she's a minimalist or carries her life in one bag.

LTK: How can readers know which handbag to pick for a specific occasion or just to flatter their figures?

DT: I say you should really look at quality and functionality first and foremost. For example, your everyday bag should be a bit of a nice investment for you, since it's something you'll carry every day and you want it to last and look good.

Giving Back

LTK: You give back by working with several charities. Can you tell us more about your work with these charities?

DT: I have a nine-year-old foster sister, Fatu, from Sierre Leone with Child Fund. I think this is a neat way to give back to help someone go to school and just be a kid. I love receiving letters from the family and her school reports. It puts in perspective really how grateful I should be no matter what.

The other is the Fistula Foundation. For $27.00 dollars a month or just to purchase a scarf or bracelet you give someone a surgery and a chance to start fresh in life after a misfortune. As for Susan G. Koman - I am a runner and my grandmother died of cancer and I had a friend die of fibroid cancer at 27, so I think it's a great way to show remembrance.

Upcoming at Donnella's Closet

LTK: Any new lines we can expect to see at your store in the near future?

DT: Since we focus on emerging designers, we always look for new collections. I am getting some fab colors from one of our staple designers, Sondra Roberts, for spring that are amazing. My jewelry designers Amanda Jaron, Alliway and Deb Maxwell tend to make year after year exceptional necklaces and jewelry.

I have two hot new favorites for handbags:

Elizabeth Kincaid-White

Elizabeth Kincaid-White is a designer and fellow FGI member from Detroit who has these amazing box miniaudieres that she is featuring at a major fashion event in Mexico.


Another emerging star is Ayele, a woman I met after I received an invite to her NYC Trunk Show. Originally from Paris, she designs the most luxurious bags inspired by one of my fashion icons Josephine Baker. She even donates a portion of sales to a school she went to as a child.

What Makes ShopDonella Unique

LTK: What makes ShopDonella unique?

DT: Our designers say that we are dedicated to working with them as emerging artists, giving them a chance to showcase their collections on DC. Our customers say that they always find hard to find accessories that they couldn't find in their home town and they love to chat with our DC Style Team about how to accessorize what they purchase from us whether it's a new bag,, earrings or whatever!

Donnella's Closet shoppers come away with a handbag that is unique, fits their lifestyle with the ease of online shopping for a special purchase that enhances their wardrobe.

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Handbag Tips from Donnellas Closet