hands of indigo

When it comes to designing handbags, Hands of Indigo founder Yanna Soares combines her artistic talents with a deep understanding of cultural interactions. Growing up in Brazil, she was captivated by local crafts. In particular, Soares was drawn to Mãe-de-santo priestesses whose beaded necklaces hailed from places as diverse as Japan or the Czech Republic. It was this introduction to a global creative economy that would later lay the framework for her own brand.

Today, Hands of Indigo encapsulates a combination of cultures. Inspired by Soares’ travels, its bags make use of handmade Italian leather and Japanese Miyuki beads arranged into patterns by Brazilian craftspeople. Beyond their beautiful design, the bags symbolise an artistic marriage between tradition and innovation.

Soares shares with SUITCASE a bit about her background, her love of slow fashion and where she finds inspiration.


Hands of Indigo


Yanna Soares


Lisbon, London, Brazil



Type of brand

Handmade accessories

Where can we find your designs?

We have an online shop that delivers worldwide. We are also currently stocked in Tokyo at the Miyuki Concept Store and in São Paulo at Loja Choix.

Who is the ideal Hands of Indigo customer?

A modern woman who appreciates timeless design and craftsmanship. She is well travelled and, as a result, has become appreciative of simplicity. The HOI woman likes to be inspired. She likes uniqueness, but is also cosmopolitan. She has a strong sense of style and purpose that involves mixing multiculturalism with a good dose of universal form.

How did the idea for your brand originate?

I first envisioned the brand about three years ago while I was living in Kyoto on a scholarship during my Masters at the Royal College of Art. The harmony between old traditions and modernity that I found there sparked my fire. I saw a connection between Japan and Brazil, where I was born. Beaded patterns, for instance, are a large part of culture in Brazil and yet, interestingly, were only introduced to the country by the Portuguese during colonial times. In its essence, Hands of Indigo is about the imprint of modern trade on Brazil, hence the name of the brand, that alludes to oceanic trade routes. Craft is in constant flux because artists are always transforming and taking on new influences in order to enrich what we create.

How do you define slow fashion?

Slow fashion means that a product has been considered on many levels: aesthetically, ethically and personally. This product is not necessarily a seasonal fashion trend that goes from drawing board to shop in just a few weeks. For example, I remember sketching one of the first Hands of Indigo patterns in watercolours more than two years ago. Slow fashion is committing to a vision that is not brand or designer driven, it is more of a holistic and researched approach to style that focuses on simplicity and authenticity and values long term socio-cultural well being.

Where do your materials come from?

Our bags are made with Japanese glass beads because they are durable and uniform and Italian and Portuguese leathers.

Your bags are best paired with…

A well-cut pair of blue jeans and a simple white shirt, a dress in one colour or a black-and-white striped jumpsuit!

How did you transition from a fine artist to a designer?

I have never seen myself as only one type of artist. I started out as a graphic designer, then became increasingly interested in fine art printmaking and later in textiles… I suppose this is ultimately due to the fact that I was trained under a Bauhaus system, in which it is absolutely normal to transition between disciplines as long as form is still respected. I am also coming from a legacy of Brazilian Modernism, which was highly influenced by European avant-garde movements.

How do your bags help define your customer’s sense of individuality?

The bags have a bold modern aesthetic but are completely handmade. That creates a nice balance. Individuality is enhanced without being too loud. It definitely takes a confident woman to wear one of our pieces.

What similarities and differences do you see between Portugal and Brazil?

There are so many similarities, from family values, to architecture to food. I love the way the Portuguese respect their traditions and I think that is perhaps the biggest difference between the two countries. Brazil has unfortunately been too concerned with globalisation, like many other developing nations, and as a result, many of its cultural traditions are being lost.

Favourite city in Brazil?


How would you describe the art scene in Brazil?

I think the best Brazilian artists often have a discourse around tropical modernity.

Best galleries in Rio?

São Paulo has better galleries. Mendes Wood DM, Casa Triângulo and Galeria Leme have the hottest contemporary artists.

Three artists who inspire you?

Lygia Pape, Willys de Castro and Paulo Werneck.

How do you interpret artwork from other artists into your designs?

The collection is influenced by the artists that made part of Grupo Frente, the avant-garde collective from Rio which included Lygia Pape and Lygia Clark. Although short-lived, it was hugely influential because of its contribution to material and colour exploration. These artists used the very essence of Brazil to create their works. Indigenous woodcuts and weavings were reinterpreted into purist geometry.

How do you think the worlds of art and fashion intersect?

There is no doubt that certain elements and moments in fashion history are art, pure and simple. There is a very contemporary return of interest in craftsmanship and skill in the use and development of new materials. These interests are very much in line with ‘one-off’ garments being made like works of art.

How would you spend 24 hours in Lisbon?

Start your day with a stroll in Alfama early in the morning because you can see a to-die-for sunrise at Miradouro Portas do Sol and avoid the invasion of tourists and tuk tuks that happens after 11AM. Walk down into Mouraria, Lisbon’s most traditional neighbourhood and heart of town, meandering through the narrow cobbled streets looking up at white sheets hung to dry outside traditional balconies. Walk to Intendente, Lisbon’s best kept secret, where in-the-know tourists and locals are headed. Have some superb fresh seafood at Ramiro, then shop for beautiful Portuguese products at A Vida Portuguesa. Jump in an uber and head to the São Vicente de Fora monastery, one of the finest mannerist buildings in Lisbon. If you still can face looking at more tiles, head to the nearby Tile Museum. Enjoy a sundowner at Memmo Rooftop Bar followed by dinner at Bairro do Avillez in Chiado.

How does Lisbon offer new artistic inspiration for your designs?

Lisbon has a rich cultural legacy within decorative arts, as well as modern architecture. The city is an endless source of inspiration with a vibrant crafts scene. Lisbon locals are warm and welcoming; their appreciation of tradition and simplicity is unique. Portugal has now been rediscovered because of its understated elegance. Let’s not forget though that, although it is often downplayed, the Portuguese Empire once dominated the world!

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