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Tote-ally Chic

Tote-ally Chic

Muriel Luxemburger’s handbags

Muriel Luxemburger’s handbags are inspired by her Parisian youth

Muriel Luxemburger’s handbags

Step into Muriel Luxemburger’s Buckhead workshop, and you are hit with the pungent scent of all things wild and wooly. Stacks of cowhide, Tibetan sheep’s wool, rabbit fur and more, in every color and texture, are everywhere. Industrial sewing machines and oversized spools of thread in myriad colors line the walls, and bright studio lights illuminate collections of handbags, new and vintage. For those of us who dream in Vuitton and Chanel, paying a visit to Atelier Luxembourg is like coming home.

Luxemburger was born and raised in Paris and has lived in New York, Kiev, Geneva and Lausanne. Each city has informed her identity as an artist and craftsman, but it was during her time in Switzerland that she became obsessed with the business of luxury goods. “In Switzerland, there was definitely an appreciation for what I was creating and selling,” Luxemburger says. “But I realized if I wanted to do this for the long-term, I had to learn the business side, too. I went to the University of Geneva to complete a degree specializing in luxury goods. I took classes at one of the last fine leatherwork ateliers, called maroquinerie. When I moved to Atlanta [in 2013], I was ready.”

And so, Atelier Luxembourg was born. “The name is a tribute to my favorite Left Bank park, the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s simply by coincidence that it’s similar to my family name,” Luxemburger says.

In 2013, Luxemburger landed in Buckhead’s Ardmore district and sold her first bags that same year out of a private home. “Then my friends, the Dugauds, started carrying my line in their salon [Bernard Dugaud Atelier de Beauté],” Luxemburger says. “Soon after, The Bitter Southerner started selling the pony clutch and the metallic tassel clutch in limited editions via the online general store. They sold out in every color and helped establish Atelier Luxembourg as a local brand.”

That kind of success doesn’t come without a cost. Weeks go into designing, cutting and building a handbag, with materials sourced both locally and from across the globe. “I am constantly scouting materials,” Luxemburger says. “Atlanta is a great place for cowhides. I’ve found fabulous pieces at Scott Antique Markets as well as Tandy Leather. And my customers demand quality hardware. So now I import topnotch zippers from Switzerland.”

Though cumulatively, each piece is a big investment of resources, Luxemburger stresses the importance of keeping prices competitive. Depending on the material and the work involved, her totes, bucket bags and crossbody bags range anywhere from $150 to $450 or more for custom pieces.

Luxemburger conducts much of her business at pop-up shops (listed on the website) and via her online store, but her favorite locale is the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Buckhead, where she has a vendor tent on Saturday mornings from March through December. “I really love this community. I’m inspired by my customers and love meeting them face to face. They always tell me how happy they are to find authentic, quality handbags in Atlanta. They tell their friends about my business, and because of word of mouth and my online store, I have customers all over the U.S.” Which means it’s going to be a busy year. “For this spring, besides the subtle greys and chic taupes that are my core colors, we will be adding metallic, deep orange, midnight blue, adorable pink and a wonderfully ‘weathered white’ leather,” Luxemburger says with excitement. “I will be cutting them in the classic shapes of my collection and adding new ones, of course.”

An accomplished painter, embroiderer and designer, Luxemburger could have gone in many directions for her business. “I have made handbags my medium of the moment. Every day, I experiment with materials, color combinations, closures, handles, structure … it’s a universal object that can be endlessly reinvented.”


PHOTO: Sara Hanna

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