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Meet Maayan Hotam of Fontem Handbags

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maayan Hotam.

Maayan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always had a fascination with the way things are made and fine craftsmanship. I’m also a sentimental kind of person and would carry letters my parents had written to me or birthday cards my husband had given me, in my handbag. I thought of the idea of creating a range of custom handbags where one can carry these heartfelt words, and thought of having them inscribed in the lining of handbags.

I began my career as a professional dancer in a world which shaped my relentless drive for perfection, along with a deep appreciation for the elegant beauty of feminine lines. After my training as a contemporary dancer, it was a natural progression for me to want to create a range of handbags that were meant to be enjoyed beyond a season and that had a greater meaning to them, it’s another form of art to me. So I set out to learn the trade from the best and I headed to Italy. I was taught by master artisans in Florence about every aspect of creating fine leather handbags. It’s there that my appreciation for the meticulous tradition and uncompromising quality was formed. It’s also something that when you learn you can’t “unlearn”—and I can’t abandon.

I was born in Israel, raised in Kenya and trained in Italy, and now I live in Southern California with my husband. I believe each of these places that I have been fortunate to live in have all enriched me in a different way. I feel like I am a citizen of the world.

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always setbacks to every business, but I am a very resilient person and always find new ways of doing things. As an independent businesswoman, I learned to accept all challenges, big and small, with joy and radical positivity. I have learned that what is often presented as a challenge, can actually be a new opportunity for development and growth.

The main challenges I face are derived from the commitment to making handbags with uncompromising standards which goes against the premise of fast fashion. Using sustainably sourced leather, premium-quality materials and superior craftsmanship are the core values of the brand and are aimed at a clientele that appreciate the value of buying high-quality, responsibly made products that are meant to last.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Fontem is a range of custom Italian leather handbags created by hand in my studio. Inscribed inside the lining of each bag is a note, letter or a message, which is why they make perfect gifts. I am a lover of the written word, and each handbag in the collection is named after a female writer. I am really proud of my sourcing, I only work with certified tanneries in Italy, and use premium soft buttery leathers, the highest quality brass ornaments and zips, and even my threads are sourced from Italy. I believe in quality over quantity.

Much like contemporary dance, I design free-flow without any sketches and create in three dimension with the leather that I am working with. My designs are classic yet sophisticated, they are the opposite of trend-driven fast fashion. Instead, they are handbags of superior quality, with sentimental value to be carried and enjoyed a lifetime.

Each bag is unique and the process is very personal. This allows me to create an extraordinary connection with my customers since they are very involved in the process. It feels incredible to know that somewhere, a women is celebrated and appreciated dearly, walking around with a unique purse, that was made especially for her, with her loved ones blessing inside or an inspirational quote she gifted herself with—that makes her feel wonderful. It makes it all worthwhile to me.

How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
To me, success is to continue to have the freedom to do what I love and believe in, to make a difference while doing it and a positive impact on people’s lives, and hopefully, to inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions and unique voice.


  • Since my handbags are carried through my website, and are not offered through a traditional retail store structure, I am able to offer them at a great price point. I believe in this direct to consumer method. There’s no middleman involved and I get to know each of my customers—which is probably why so many come back and re-order. One of my most popular handbags is the Rose clutch, it’s priced at 280$.
  • Complimentary 15% discount off first purchase.

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Fontem Handbags

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