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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Meet the Founder of the Fastest-Growing Black Woman-Owned Line of Luxury Leather Designer Handbags

Elena Holtzclaw, founder of Theugi

Nationwide — Elena Holtzclaw, a talented entrepreneur and designer from Albany, New York, knows her leathers. She is the owner of Theugi – New York, a Black-owned line of premium-quality top grain and full grain leather bags and accessories designed for beauty and durability.

She and her husband Derek were first introduced to the leather industry seven years ago when they started designing high school varsity jackets for their sons’ sports teams. Elena says that she has always had a passion for design, and their leather and wool varsity jacket received great responses. Soon they started designing leather varsity jackets for other high schools. As they are both originally from Chicago, they connected with a local distributor and started designing leather varsity jackets for high school students throughout the Chicago area. This experience really piqued their interest in leather, its production, and its various grades and quality.

Elena says that her love for high-quality beautiful leather handbags changed their focus in 2019 when they started designing and selling leather handbags and accessories. At the same time, Derek was working on his vision for a summer youth program that would focus on the economic empowerment of youth and communities. Derek, who has spent his entire professional career in public service, says that the one thing he has grown to understand is that government can provide services, but it cannot solve the problems that confront Black communities. His driving philosophy is that our youth can be taught how to work and build together and can be organized to drive community economic development. Derek’s model defines economic empowerment as an organization’s ability to generate its own revenue and be financially self-sufficient. To meet these two passions, Derek and Elena founded Theugi – New York, an acronym for The Urban Growth Initiative inc., a New York based not-for-profit corporation. This couple believes that as Theugi grows and starts to take relevant market share in the premium designer handbag industry, profits will support this new youth-driven economic development model.

Derek and Elena’s plan is to take market share from the leading U.S. and European design houses by offering products made with only high-quality materials. Elena says that is why Theugi specializes in top grain and full grain leather. She offers us a quick lesson in leather by explaining that high quality leather ages beautifully and will never fade, crack or peel, unlike lower grades of leather and the re-branded Polyurethane (i.e. PU leather or vegan leather). PU looks great when you buy it, but after a year it starts to look old and worn, often peeling and fading. Real top grain and full grain leather develops a rich patina as it’s worn, and only looks better as it ages. Surprisingly, PU / vegan leather is just as expensive, if not more so than real high-quality leather. Elena is emphatic that her goal is to provide a quality product that you will be proud to wear for years to come.

While leather quality and trending designs are Elena’s passion, Derek’s focus is on the possible economic impact that Theugi can have on Black Communities. He sites that the US designer handbag market was $11.3 billion in 2021, with projected growth of nearly 4.5% annually through 2026. African American consumers accounted for approximately 20 percent of luxury goods spending in the US market in 2019 – a figure that’s projected to rise to 25 to 30 percent by 2025. Derek believes that when Theugi grows to the point that it takes real market share from the leading European and American designer handbag companies, they will be able to make real and significant change in Black communities.

But for now, Theugi is a small company that focuses on high quality leather products at competitive prices. Their goal is to become the premier leather handbag designer for the African American community.

For more details and/or to support the company, visit the official web site at Theugi.com

For press inquiries, contact sales@theugi.com or 518-776-4303