The first time I met Teresa Bettencourt was in June of 2019. However, my love of Manjerica handbags started before then. My first trip to Lisbon, prior to launching Lesetta, opened my eyes to the amazing Portuguese tradition of craftsmanship and design. A country overflowing with talent in the fashion industry, many famous luxury brands have pieces made in Portugal. It is a hotbed for up-and-coming designers, and a haven for those seeking the best products of the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.
When I returned to Lisbon, with my family, in 2019, I was able to sit down with Teresa and visit with her about the history, inspirations and story of Manjerica. Teresa is originally from the Azores, a beautiful set of islands off the coast of Portugal. It is often referred to as “The Hawaii of Europe”. To hear Teresa talk about her hometown makes one long to go there. Teresa describes her birthplace as the unlimited source of inspiration for the design of her bags. The Azores is full of untouched nature and gorgeous views, Teresa’s love of the beautiful landscape and local culture are the basis for Manjerica.
When asked how she would describe the “Manjerica style”, Teresa says, “I think my work is very colorful and with a retro style. I am very influenced by my childhood memories especially the colors of the nature from the Azores, and also by my mother’s closet and her vintage bags, retro dresses etc.”
I fell in love with the vintage style and colorful Italian leather bags that are created in a local workshop in the countryside of Portugal. We talked about Teresa’s journey to launching a handbag line and searching for the perfect leather artisan to help her bring her beautiful ideas to life. She says, “Since we are a Portuguese brand we try to support the beautiful crafts and traditional techniques from our country. We believe that investing in a more sustainable workplace is the answer to preserving the crafts in Portugal and give the opportunity for fair labor working conditions. We believe the quality of materials and craft make possible the extension of the product's lifetime, which leads to a more sustainable world.” Since her launch, her bags have been made by Mr. Fernando, an older gentleman who spent years making high-end luxury handbags in France, before returning to Portugal and setting up his own workshop in his hometown. Mr. Fernando now works with his son instilling the use of traditional techniques and Portuguese craftsmanship in hopes that one day he will take over the family business.
I have been offering Manjerica bags through the Lesetta Collection in America since I launched in 2018. The response to the thoughtful, colorful, high-quality bags released each season has been overwhelming. The Lesetta clients have fallen in love with Manjerica. This does not surprise me as the Lesetta Community is composed of women who believe in investing in high-quality, slow fashion pieces of the finest materials and made by the most skilled craftsmen.
Terersa’s philosophy, behind her line, is truly a fit for the Lesetta brand. She says, “And so my work is very personal and so gives me freedom to express whatever I feel at the moment. I just collect everything around me, can be images, sounds, stories, memories, smells, and then I try to translate that into a bag. I start by sketching and playing with color, that’s the really fun part of the process. But I think that when a designer is honest about their work, when she expresses what she really wants and it’s not bound by trends and other people’s “noise”, it’s a really good way of sharing experiences on a creative level.” We could not agree more and are so honored that Teresa has continued to trust us with her work.