Launched exclusively with Barneys New York in 2015, Truss began as an accessory project curated by fashion and design industry veterans Gillian Tozer and Elise Durbecq. The pair, who met while working side-by-side at Opening Ceremony, took a trip to Mexico and found themselves enamored with the bags for sale at the local Oaxacan market.
“We were completely blown away by the complexity of the bags’ structure, their resilience, and their overall beauty—that was the spark for the line, so to speak,” Tozer tells us of the inspiration she and Durbecq found south of the border..
What began as a curated collection sourced from the marketplace has since developed into a growing handbag brand that pairs Tozer and Durbecq with Oaxacan artisans. The Brooklyn-based designers create bag concepts inspired by the two regions where they split their time: New York and Oaxaca.
“We wanted to shine a light on the Oaxacan weaving tradition and present the bags in a way that wouldn’t reduce them to being merely souvenirs but rather present them as beautiful, functional objects that can sit next to any other luxury item,” Tozer says. “Our intention is to keep the Oaxacan weaving tradition alive, and we do this by ensuring we’re active, conscious members of the weaving community, nurturing strong relationships with the artisans.”
Created using traditional techniques, each Truss bag takes between one and five days to construct. The bags are made of plastic that’s woven in geometric patterns around a box to build the base structure, then formed into the shape of a bag. The resulting collection consists of bold, bright bags in a variety of silhouettes and shapes—like market totes, folio clutches, and bucket bags—finished with leather trim, protective metal feet, and wide shoulder straps.
Empowering the artisans behind the bags is a main focus for Tozer and Durbecq. Aiming to foster a community of female entrepreneurs, Truss aids Oaxacan communities with the sale of each and every piece. “It’s important to us to give back,” says Tozer. “We want the young women of Oaxaca to recognize their ability to grow and implement change, empowering their peers to better themselves and their communities. Sustainability is key.”
Additionally, Truss supports the Fondo Guadalupe Musalem, a women’s foundation in Oaxaca that offers scholarships to young, indigenous women in rural communities. “The scholarships offer a well-rounded approach to education and development—one that oversees not only their schooling, but also their health, social development, and sense of community,” Gillian says. “Truss sponsors students in the program and we look forward to working more closely with the foundation as we continue to grow.”
For others interested in following a business model that combines entrepreneurship with empowerment, the Truss founders advise that creating a project that’s sustainable for both the designer and the artisans is key. “To implement real change, you need to grow roots, and that’s something that doesn’t come from fleeting relationships. At the end of the day, it’s important that your project is sustainable for both you and the community you’re working with—that’s what makes it worthwhile.”
We couldn’t agree more.