Meet Lola Banjo, the Black woman founder behind the luxury Italian-made handbag and travel accessory line, Silver & Riley.
It was during her travels that Banjo realized how hard it was to find a travel bag that was functional, stylish, high-quality, and affordable. Recognizing the highly profitable gap in the market, Banjo sprung into action and Silver & Riley was born.
Describing herself as a “global citizen” who’s traveled to over 100 countries and counting, Banjo knows a thing or two about what makes a bag extraordinary. From a young age, Banjo’s engineering mind has been motivated to build things better. From toys, as a child, to now travel and style handbags, as an entrepreneur, her bags are built from the unique perspective of ergonomics and style.
With an MBA from Emory University and studies in Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, Banjo’s journey set the stage for Silver & Riley’s launch. Before studying business and launching her luxury handbag and travel accessory line, she pursued Mathematics and Materials Engineering at Rutgers University and completed her Masters of Science in Financial Engineering from New York University (NYU).
Banjo travels to Italy once a month to visit the factories where her bags are produced, to ensure quality and construction. Silver & Riley prides itself on being one of the premiere Black woman-owned luxury handbag and travel accessory lines with multi-use, versatile function, and unisex style the industry has yet to see.
“Just as I am a global citizen, my goal is to make Silver & Riley a global brand,” Banjo told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“I am already receiving orders from South Africa, Dubai, and all over Canada. Those customers are paying hefty fees in customs, if they are valuing my bags that much, I know there is space in the market for Silver & Riley to have a presence everywhere.”
In the luxury handbag market, it’s a common practice to create products based solely on style and not usability. It’s a gap Banjo was determined to close.
“Most high-end fashion brands don’t care if you really need to use this bag, it just has to look good,” she said. “Their focus is on what is trending, what looks hot, and what’s poppin’ right now.”
“My goal as a designer is to show people you don’t need to compromise! You can have both. I am closing the gap between style and functionality.”
Silver & Riley just announced two additional sizes and styles of the convertible executive bag and brought Vanessa Simmons along to help with the debut.
“I am beyond thrilled to be working with Silver & Riley and founder Lola Banjo,” Simmons told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“Lola designs beautiful pieces that stand the test of time. Quality, functionality, and style are important to me when investing in bags and Silver & Riley delivers without exception.”
With a continued rise in the number of Black designers taking up space in the luxury fashion market, Banjo still aims to see more support for Black women-owned brands.
“There is a great opportunity for Black Women Designers to enjoy similar mainstream success, and I would definitely love to see more support for us,” Banjo said. “I’m proud of brands like Hanifa, Fe Noel, and of course, Rihanna’s Fenty, but we need more!”
“Black Women Designers are doing our thing everyday and also deserve to be elevated.”
Adding to Banjo’s empire and legacy, Silver & Riley aims to amplify Black women entrepreneurs through their Buy1Give5 initiative. As part of the program, five percent of all total sales go to other women entrepreneurs to help start, grow, or scale their businesses.
“To date, Silver & Riley has been able to award grants to 27 Black women in business, from consulting, accounting and healthcare to fashion and beauty,” she said.
“In the last round, we received 977 applicants and were able to award $10,000.”
The entrepreneur is inspired by her late mother, who ran a number of businesses, including a jewelry business and a bakery, while always supporting other women in her community with small monetary “grants” whenever she could.
“My mother passed away 20 years ago and till this day, I still have people say to me, ‘your mother helped me open my shop,’ or ‘she helped establish my cart, so I can get out of the sweltering sun when I sell my wares.’”
“I am so proud of this initiative and look forward to it growing,” she added.
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