Entrepreneur starts m.andonìa for the greater good
By Jordan Houston
To say Maria Argyropoulos loves her pop-up, designer handbag shop, is an understatement.
“We loved the space, we loved the people, and we loved the area,” she says. “So, we stayed — that was a year ago.”
Sitting in One Colorado at 15 Douglas Alley in Pasadena, m.andonìa is redefining the meaning of “pop up.” The store — with its locally made purses, jewelry and accessories, many of which are sourced in DTLA — opened in November 2020 and is planning on staying in One Colorado for several more months.
Argyropoulos’ bags are designed, hand sewn, manufactured and shipped out of her parents’ 30-year-old Burbank-based facility Golden Fleece Designs Inc. Argyropoulos ships around the world to clients who have included Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston and Tyra Banks.
M.andonìa bags range from small evening bags to totes and overnight bags. The 2021 collection features chain crossbody bags emphasizing colorful patterns, such as zebra prints and yellow formals, while the best-selling crossbody is marked by a modern Evil Eye. The bags are also frequently embellished with Swarovski crystals and lamination.
“When a customer sees a finished product like what we have, I don’t think they expect that it is locally made,” Argyropoulos says.
The designer noted that she doesn’t rely heavily on trends, drawing inspiration from around the globe. Argyropoulos frequently scours European fabric mills and vintage stores in the United States to find the perfect combination of materials to create her vibrant, edgy, fresh and funky pieces.
“We have a little bit of everything, it’s a bit of a mix,” Argyropoulos says. “It’s not full vintage, but you can tell there is that little edge to it.”
The brand, according to the designer, caters to those who want to stand out from the norm and dare to be noticed.
“What I like about what we do is we offer a unique item and it’s for the woman who wants to be different,” Argyropoulos says. “We’re not a huge brand label that is plastered all over the billboards and in mass department stores, so when someone comes in here, they’re buying something unique.
“To buy unique, you feel unique, you are unique and you are just different. It’s not like you are wearing somebody else’s same bag because of the label.”
Argyropoulos’ fashion know-how stems from her degree in graphic design from Cal State Northridge and her graduate studies at the renowned Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. She ran with her potential after she made a handbag from a vintage placemat.
“Everything started off with one-of-a-kind vintage inspo and retro design,” Argyropoulos explains. “We were picking out vintage fabrics or dresses and cutting them up and doing handbags. We couldn’t meet the demand because everybody wanted one. I could only do a few at a time because of materials.”
Her eye for craftsmanship dates back to 1936 when her family opened its first leather goods factory in Athens. Argyropoulos largely attributes her taste and success to her mother, she says.
“I couldn’t do it without her, she is extremely passionate about manufacturing and staying local — as am I,” she says.
Shortly after opening the pop-up location in Pasadena, Argyropoulos pivoted to help the nation.
Proceeds of all sales benefit nonprofits like Philoptochos of Pasadena, Armenia Fund, Junior League and Soroptimist.
In partnership with her parents’ company, Argyropoulos launched Masks for a Cause, which donates one mask per sale to those working on the frontlines, such as first responders, grocery store workers, restaurant employees and homeless shelters.
“The giving back was really important,” she says. “I felt like at one point I was billing orders for the entire country and trying to donate to as many facilities as possible. We did quite a bit, we were giving thousands away. That was the most rewarding part.
“To see the health care workers show up at your door and give a huge bag of inventory to them, and to the homeless shelters and nursing home — to anybody who needed it.”
All masks, which are priced on average at $9, are compliant with the personal protection equipment (PPE) guidelines.
The face masks “are fun, mood lifting fabrics to get us through these volatile times,” featuring patterns of all colors and shapes to cater to a variety of tastes and desires.
As far as m.andonìa, locals can expect to see new items hit the shelves soon. Argyropoulos teased the upcoming collection as a crowd-pleaser, with loud colors, creative prints and one-of-a-kind designs.
“There’s a lot of one-of-a-kinds and that’s where I have fun,” she says.
15 Douglas Alley, Pasadena
Masks for a Cause