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L.A.-made bag brand serves up the look of exotic animal skins — without the animal

A model holds a bag from L.A. eco-chic travel accessories brand Rivers Eight.
A model holds a bag from L.A. eco-chic travel accessories brand Rivers Eight.
(Sarah St. Clair Renard)

As an animal lover and fashion fan, Rivers Eight founder Amanda Schuon had an of-the-moment style dilemma. “I have exotic-skin pieces that I got years ago,” she said, “but it started to make me feel a little uncomfortable.”

That feeling motivated Schuon to create Rivers Eight, an eco-chic travel accessories brand that offers faux versions of exotic skins including python, stingray, caiman, lizard and alligator belly in the form of crossbody bags, coin purses, cosmetic cases, waist packs, clutches, computer sleeves and decorative trays.

“We’re part of this important and exciting wave of designers and fashion houses that are starting to eliminate exotic skins,” said Schuon, who launched Rivers Eight last fall. (Originally launched under the name Artifact Eight, the label was rechristened and relaunched under its new name in August after facing a trademark problem.)

Rivers Eight faux python valet tray
A faux python valet tray ($125) from Rivers Eight’s collection of bags and accessories.
(Rivers Eight)
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At the end of 2018, Chanel announced it would no longer use exotic animal skins for its forthcoming collections, and in February Victoria Beckham joined the French fashion house when she publicly stated her label would abandon exotic skins. (California has banned the sale of python skin since 1970.)

Schuon said she sees these moves by brands not as trends but as the future of fashion. “We can replace that same look with a material that is completely cruelty-free,” she said during a phone interview. “I felt that this was an opportunity to develop an alternative material that could still be beautiful and wearable but that eliminated the use of any animal.”

Using rubber molds, the synthetic pieces are handmade locally and range from $18 (for a keychain) to $450 (for a crossbody bag). “I wanted to create something that looked and felt genuine but that was durable and not precious,” she said of the pieces, which are available at Roseark in West Hollywood and online at riverseight.com.

Schuon also designed Rivers Eight’s bags so they could be worn day to night. “I’m an incredibly efficient packer, so I loved the idea of designing a travel accessories collection that could do double duty,” she said, explaining that the makeup bag is stylish enough to be worn as a clutch and that the waist pack can be used for hikes by day and then “slung over your shoulder and worn out in the evening.”

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A native Angeleno, Schuon often considers the city she loves when designing. “Los Angeles is all about being outdoors,” she said. “There are so many beautiful hiking trails. That was the inspiration for the waist pack, which has been our best seller.” It was also important to her to keep production local. “We have an incredibly talented workforce here,” she said. “It is more expensive to work in L.A. As a point of comparison, we priced out production costs for a few different styles in China, and it was significantly less. But it became important to me as I moved through this process to have production in my backyard.”

Rivers Eight alligator-belly clutch
A faux alligator-belly clutch ($250) from L.A.-based label Rivers Eight.
(Rivers Eight)

As a mother of two daughters, Schuon said she also wanted to find a way to give back with her company, which led her to team up with the organization This is About Humanity to create a special-edition black faux python toiletry case that retails for $225 with half of proceeds benefiting the Casa Cornelia Law Center’s work with victims of human- and civil-rights violations.

Rivers Eight is a second act for Schuon, who has spent 17 years working with stylish brands such as Jennifer Meyer (jewelry) and Serena & Lily (home goods) through her public relations and marketing agency, Truth Be Told PR. “I was ready for a new adventure and a new challenge,” she said, sharing that her brand will release backpacks in the near future. “I’d always dreamed of being on the creative side.”


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