Washington - The idea came to the two friends because “we are fashionable women of means” who care that all the stuff in their lives - the shoes, handbags, clothes, sunglasses - properly reflect who they are.
Their accessories speak of their professional success and their grown-up sophistication. And it had become incredibly aggravating to have to pull out little plastic baggies and dig around for a crumpled package of rolling paper every time they wanted to smoke a joint. There had to be a better way.
And so, Jeanine Moss and Ann Shuch created what one might call pot purses.
At a time when medical marijuana has gained acceptances in the majority of the country and recreational use is legal in four states and decriminalised in the District of Columbia, it was only a matter of time before pricey, fashion-oriented accessories followed. These handbags and clutches - under the AnnaBis brand name - have a dedicated place for everything, from pipes to eye drops and breath mints. The bags are lined with an odour-blocking resin used in food preparation and medical technology - to keep a lid on weed's telltale aroma.
“Ann and I have been recreational and medical users of cannabis for years,” says Moss, who has known Shuch for about six years. “We met at a party in the way that you'd imagine.”
Moss has a background in marketing and communication, at one point serving as the spokeswoman for the September 11 Fund. Shuch studied interior design at Parsons School of Design. The two 50-something entrepreneurs are also quick to point out that they have extensive experience as consumers of designer accessories.
But if one Googles “marijuana” and “handbag,” the results are mostly inexpensive satchels emblazoned with cannabis leaves or old news stories about Hermès bags that reportedly smelled like pot due to a batch of bad leather. AnnaBis bags fall into the price range of accessible luxury. They are accessories aimed at pot-smoking customers who might normally purchase handbags from Tory Burch, Michael Michael Kors or Coach. An AnnaBis bucket bag, for example, costs $295 (about R3 000); a small clutch is $175.
The anti-odour lining is a nice feature, but as Moss says, “if you just want odour control, you can just (layer) three or four baggies.” And if a woman simply wants a beautiful bag, she already has a host of choices. The way the entrepreneurs see it, the bag is a statement about the acceptability of pot - whether as medicinal or recreational.
“It's the expression of power and success,” Shuch says. The marijuana business is (sort of) legitimate and the AnnaBis bags are about “women feeling validated in their choices. We're going to validate that choice with beautiful accessories.”
Most new accessory brands launch through one of the various fashion trade shows in New York, Las Vegas or Paris. AnnaBis had its soft launch in San Francisco at a Weed Club event. The co-founders pitched their brand to venture capitalists who were open, at least in theory, to the idea of funding cannabis-based businesses. Moss and Shuch say they found interest but no takers, and so the company remains self-funded.
AnnaBis bags have been selling online now for about three weeks. The most enthusiastic responses have been from the West Coast. (Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.) The company, however, is based in New Jersey, where recreational use is not legal.
“We're not focused on selling in New Jersey,” Moss says. And they are treading carefully. “The product never touches the plant. We have to be responsible. We don't break laws.”
As for their own use: “We (smoke) when we can,” Moss says. “We don't when we can't.”