KAROO COLLECTION is a bespoke line of 100% genuine ostrich leather handbags and purses from South Africa. With a family home in South Africa, we personally verify the production quality of our items and ensure that our ostriches are sustainably farm raised to the highest ethical standards. Our skins are authentic; no stamping, embossing or manipulation takes place to achieve the look of our pieces.
We believe that, above all, education, especially among women, can have the greatest social impact around the world. Our Founder and CMO has been a volunteer Mentor and supporter of Greenhouse Scholars - a Boulder, Colorado-based non-profit that provides comprehensive personal and financial support to high-performing, under-resourced college students – for nearly five years. Karoo Collection donates one item per year to the Greenhouse Scholars – Glass Half Full fundraising event in Denver, Colorado. In addition, we we use a portion of profits to support education in Africa. After touring the Tujatane School in Livingstone, Zambia, we began supporting one student per year. We want to do the same for a similar educational non-profit in South Africa. To ensure the greatest impact, we are currently doing due diligence to select the most appropriate organization.
We asked Brooke Berlin, owner and inspiration behind Karoo Collection purses, what makes Karoo radically unique. Here is what she had to say:
What inspired you to start Karoo Collection?
Africa is a continent with a very feminine, and also primal, energy. From my earliest memories I knew that Africa was my soul’s homeland. Friends joke that I’m an “American African.” The drum beat/heart beat, the ancient people living as they did at the dawn of time, the Ubuntu (human kindness) was calling me. Throughout my life I created a circle of friends from Africa, then moved to Cape Town, and then in 2013 married a man who was originally from South Africa. It was important to me to have a business that would support the economy of my adopted homeland, and specifically the women there. With my husband’s family living in the Karoo – the land that is the center of ostrich production in the world – Karoo Collection fell into place.
How does Karoo make an impact?
Karoo Collection directly impacts the lives of women in South Africa. We work with two co-ops – one in Cape Town and one in the Karoo – for the entire production process. Every material that goes into a Karoo Collection piece is from South Africa and every item is handmade by these two co-ops. Since starting Karoo Collection, both co-ops have hired and trained more women, enabling them to work outside of the home in a safe, supportive environment. Their ability to provide for themselves and their families strengthens the overall community. In addition, because of my personal belief that supporting education among women will be a vital element in changing the world, I donate items to (and volunteer with) the Boulder-based Greenhouse Scholars, a non-profit that supports education. My long-term goal is that the company becomes profitable enough that we can fully sponsor a student through her college years in South Africa.
What makes Karoo purses unique?
Ostrich itself is a very unique, rare and luxurious leather. Every piece is different because the texture and pattern of the ostrich leather is created from the quill follicles (where the ostrich feathers also widely used in fashion come from) and varies from one to the next. South Africa produces all of the finest ostrich leather in the world, and limits its annual production. We work with the same leather that gets shipped to the finest fashion houses in Europe. Many of those brands have at least one item in ostrich, where as Karoo Collection is only focuses on ostrich. Mass-produced pieces are typically embossed ostrich, where the bump pattern is embossed onto a different type of leather such as calf, which is why it is less expensive and can also be made by machines. Of course, the very nature of a handmade item means that every piece will be slightly different.
What is your life mantra?
“The Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.” It is a quote by Karen Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa” under the pen name Isak Dinesen. “Out of Africa” is my mother’s favorite movie, and besides encouraging my love of Africa from a young age, which included watching the movie constantly, she is the one who encouraged me to take the great leap into the unknown and move to South Africa ten years ago. My mother, and Ms. Blixen, are both fierce and determined women who went forth into the unknown to create the life they wanted to live. By focusing on what is in front of me, and not getting distracted by what is beyond the horizon, I know I will always be able to do the same.