ENCINITAS — Julie Ann Sherwood, founder and owner of Lucia Bella Fine Handbags and Accessories, comes by her entrepreneurial roots naturally.
Great grandmother Belen Barajas sold handcrafted paper mache flowers at the foot of Chesterfield Drive in Cardiff in the 1920s and 1930s.
Grandmother Lucy Guerrero used her profits from raising zucchini to purchase real estate for a family home in Cardiff. She indulged young Julie’s interest in fashion, allowing her to play dress up with her clothes as a child.
It is for Lucy that Lucia Bella is named. Lucia is the Mexican interpretation of Lucy. Bella means “light” in Italian.
Today, Sherwood oversees an international design business that sells to boutiques in North County, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York. She describes her style as a fusion of “rock and roll edginess” with “vintage glamour” that incorporates fine Italian leather, and designer fabric, with elements such as feathers and Swarovski rhinestones.
“Everything I use has a little science to it,” she said.
Sherwood’s handbags and fashion accessories have been featured in publications including Lucky, Life & Style, Beverly Hills Times, Riviera and San Diego Magazine as well as the television show “The Insider.”
Her original plan, conceived in college, to be a distributor of fashion accessories, shifted to design when she realized she was the best person for the job.
“At the beginning of 2003, I found a floral hair accessory accented with crystals but it was pricey,” she said. “I bought a similar flower from Party City and decided I could make it myself.”
By the end of the year, Sherwood added designer handbags to her collection.
She realized she was a success when she got an order for 400 clutches from a retail chain.
“I was inspecting them, stuffing them with paper and attaching designer tags,” she said. “It was a lot of work but I thought, ‘I couldn’t do anything else and be happier than I am now.”
Although the Lucia Bella line is sold in retail outlets, Sherwood recommends shopping online because it offers discounted prices and an opportunity to customize orders.
“I have a client in Ireland who’s petite and wanted to order a handbag with a shorter strap,” Julie said. “We communicate via instant messaging using text and photos.”
Many clients want to interpret a look they’ve seen at a fashion show or worn by a celebrity.
All accessories are made in Southern California.
Earlier this year, Sherwood expanded her business by hiring her mother, Linda Guerrero Sherwood, as marketing manager. Linda Sherwood retired after 24 years as a secretary at Capri Elementary School to join the company.
“She’s so organized that it is a complement to my personality as a designer,” Sherwood said. “All our vendors love her. They’ll ask, “Where’s your mother? We need to see her.”
Linda Sherwood was ready to embark on a new chapter in her life.
“This is my daughter and it’s something she enjoys doing,” she said. “You can retire from a job but you can’t retire from life.”
For more information, visit lucia-bella.com/.