Slideshow

Basket Lady

Laura Benson’s French market bags deliver a home storage solution that’s très chic.

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  • Photo by Becca Sabot
    Farmer’s Market: The La Mer II ($58) is the original market bag: stylish and green.
  • Photo by Becca Sabot
    Home Storage: Also use it to stash firewood, throws, or toys in the living room.
  • Photo by Becca Sabot
    Yoga Class: Ditch the duffel for a bag with longer handles and room for mats.

“If you told me 10 years ago that I’d be importing bags from Morocco for a living, I’d have called you crazy,” says Laura Benson. The former attorney and stay-at-home mom reinvented herself when her daughter Ella, now 12, started kindergarten. A light bulb went off during a family trip to Provence, France, where she saw French women toting baskets everywhere. “I’m very eco-conscious,” Benson says, “I was inspired by this combination of beautiful French style in a reusable bag.”

In search of suppliers, the family trekked into the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco where female artisans use age-old techniques to weave the bags from renewable resources—specifically, water reeds and date palm leaves. The bags are then driven to the cities of Marrakesh and Casablanca where workers sew on leather handles and trim. Satisfied with this passed-down method of production, Benson launched Jeanne Beatrice (a blend of both her and her daughter’s middle names) with three bags in 2008 at the Mill City Farmers Market.  

 

“People stash all sorts of things in them from magazines to laundry to children’s toys,” she says. “I had one interior designer order 30 for her clients.” The bags also caught the attention of editors at Martha Stewart Living, who featured them in recent issues. Now Benson offers 25 styles at more than 100 retailers across the country, including Twiggs in Linden Hills. She plans to continue traveling and adding more worldly accessories to her brand. Stay tuned for what Guatemala has to offer. jeannebeatrice.com

Benson keeps her line of Jeanne Beatrice totes
fresh with new shapes, handles, and trims.

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