In case you hadn't heard, African-inspired design is the Big Trend right now (resulting in criticism from some quarters for less-than-nuanced editorial coverage of the look). That's probably good for South Africa native Cherie Jones, owner of the Chicago-based African Sanctuary line of bags and jewelry designed by African artisans.
Jones's goal is for the line to directly benefit the craftspeople who make her goods as well as to showcase contemporary African design. Handbags are made from skins like nguni (a breed of cattle indigenous to South Africa), zebra, and buffalo leather, which she says are ethically sourced. The bags--clutches, totes, and overnighters--run from about $245 to $995. Jewelry is made from indigenous woods and gemstones and starts at about $99 for striking, chunky rings, running to $695 for a necklace of seductively heavy green stones. Designs are generally one-of-a-kind.
Jones originally intended to open her own shop, but the state of the economy scuttled those plans. For now she's content to sell through special events and trunk shows (e-mail cherie.inchicago [at] sbcglobal.net or call 773-306-8646 to get on her mailing list or find out about upcoming sales), although she may place them in local boutiques in the near future.