If necessity is the mother of invention, Jeanine Moss' year-and-a-half-old pot-porting purse line AnnaBís was conceived in a Mercedes-Benz on the way to see Paul Reiser perform stand-up comedy in New Jersey in the summer of 2014.
"There were four of us in this beautiful car," the 62-year-old Marina del Rey resident recalls, "and my friend asked if we wanted to smoke pot before going in. And all of us baby boomer women start pulling baggies and lighters out of our Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and then it was mints and hand cream … I remember thinking, 'This makes no sense. Why don't we just have a kit to keep everything in?' That was the aha moment."
By November 2015, Moss and a business partner had turned that aha moment into AnnaBís (pronounced "anna-bee"), a line of handbags aimed at cannabis-consuming women, a demographic Moss recognized as under-served.
Cannabis "was an underground market that had men doing the grows and the sales, and the guys made all the crap they wanted and nothing for women. It was all black rip-stop nylon, marijuana leaves and Bob Marley," says Moss. "We're not looking to pull something out of our purse that has Bob Marley on it. That's just not going to happen … This is an industry that needs to be disrupted by great design and beautiful products. We need and expect them in our daily lives. Why wouldn't we need and expect them [when it comes to cannabis accessories]?"
The original idea was for a stylish clutch that could be stowed inside a larger purse, with segmented pockets to keep vape pens, pipes and product separate, Moss says. The odor-blocking technology — achieved via resin film linings and airtight zippers — came early in the development process. Moss' research (her previous job experience includes decades in the branding, marketing and product-development space) also made it clear there was demand for a range of purse sizes.
Today, the AnnaBís product line includes eight bag styles, each one named in honor of a female celebrity Moss characterizes as having been outspoken about cannabis. They range from the slim and trim $70 Whoopee vape case (roughly an inch longer and a ½-inch as wide as an iPhone 6) to the $245 Lady G, a cross-body bag that converts into a music-festival-worthy waist bag.
The exteriors of the bags are leather (there are a few faux leather options for the vegan set) and served up in a variety of textures and finishes, including snake prints, pewter foils, pebbled leathers, tooled florals, quilting and camouflage patterns — and not a single hemp leaf or Rasta flag to be seen. Colors range from basic black to royal purple; the latter can be seen throughout the collection on the bags' interior lining, which, in a luxury-label flourish, has a jacquard pattern of the AnnaBís logo.
The bags are designed so that the interiors keep odors from seeping out from, say, pipes or particularly pungent product. Most have at least one additional zippered odor-proof pocket inside. The only drawback to all that odor-proofing (at least on the bag samples we had a chance to test-drive) is a slight stiffness to the otherwise supple leather and airtight zippers that require a tiny bit more of a tug than you might otherwise expect.
For the record, we conducted a series of unscientific tests and found the odor-blocking capability worked as advertised. (Although California recently legalized adult recreational use of marijuana, it can't yet legally be bought or sold in the state outside of the existing medical marijuana system.)
Depending on the bag style, additional details include pouches — for mints or eye drops — elasticized straps for lighters and exterior pocketry for the all-important smartphone.
"My goal right now is to get people to see and touch them," Moss says.
Another goal is to continue adding new bag silhouettes, new accessories and an athleisure grouping. "I know a lot about her now," Moss says about her customer. "[She's] active. [She's] not that stoner sitting in their parents' garage watching video games … She's hiking. She's [doing] yoga. She's an avid traveler."
While Moss declines to share specific sales figures (she'll only say she's sold "several thousand" bags to date), she's more than happy to talk about who's buying her bags. "I thought in terms of target market we'd be talking to the millennials and the baby boom women — that Gen X would be too busy with their kids and careers," she says.
"I was wrong — totally wrong. The 35-to-45-year-old is a real sweet spot, followed by the 18-to-24 [demographic] and then the 45-to-54 [age group]." Moss also notes that the Golden State is the bag brand's biggest market, followed by New York and Texas.
Although AnnaBís was born and spent its infancy on the East Coast (it's technically based in South Orange, N.J.), last summer founder and chief executive Moss, who grew up in Venice, decided to return to Southern California to be in what she describes as "the hotbed of cannabis," and hopes to move operations west during the next year.
"It's helped my business a gazillion percent," she says. "It's the smartest thing I've ever done. If I walk out of [my] building, I stub my toe on cannabis people."
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.