Alum’s bag designs featured in Dispatch
Designer Jovanna Robinson (Fashion Design, 2009) discussed her creative process—and the challenges of being a Black businessperson—in a recent issue of the Columbus Dispatch. Robinson creates designs for Tonē Bekka, her line of handmade leather travel bags and accessories, out of a studio at 400 W. Rich, in Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood, a hub of artistic activity. Crafting bags made of leather, calf hair, and African Ankara prints, Robinson tells the Dispatch that “I want my bag to be that eye-catcher that puts your outfit over the top.”
A nontraditional student, Robinson initially attended the University of Cincinnati before taking a break from her college studies. When she enrolled at CCAD, she was not only a full-time student, but a wife and mother, too.
According to the Dispatch, Robinson’s goal when she started at CCAD was to become a fashion stylist. However, a classroom assignment altered her trajectory. Reports the Dispatch, “She created a bag and was surprised when it began getting attention from others.”
Other compliments on her work followed, and Robinson was convinced to follow this new path. She launched Tonē Bekka in 2014 and began working in design full-time in 2018. Now, her handmade bags range in price from $27 to more than $500; during the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, she also began making masks and matching clutches.
Robinson tells the Dispatch that she hopes to someday open a physical store, hire her first employee, and provide sewing lessons.
Visit the Columbus Dispatch online to read more of what she had to say.