Latinos on the Rise: Daniela Zagnolli, a Latina Accessory Entrepreneur

It’s difficult at first to identify exactly what it is that makes designer Daniela Zagnolli’s accessories so extraordinarily unique from other lines. 

Perhaps it has something to do with their dichotomy—bold yet sleek, simple, sophisticated, and classic but also regal, hipster, and trendy—you feel it when you see it.

Born in a small town in the South East of Brazil called Minas Geveis, Zagnolli at just 19 years old was ambitious enough to start a small modeling agency in her hometown. At 24, she decided to move to New York, without ever having learned English, to see where life would take her.   

Working in an office by day and studying English at night, Zagnolli began importing home décor and accessories made in Brazil to make extra money.  

She says that although the home goods were a fairly difficult sell, boutiques in New York went crazy for the imported Brazilian jewelry. So, even though she was doing well with the importing biz, Zagnolli wanted more. Something she knew she could do and had an eye for--she wanted to design her own jewelry and sell it in New York to the same boutiques to which she had imported jewelry.

After taking some design classes and learning her way around using the computer design program at New York University, it didn’t her long to launch her own wholesale business--and business has been booming.  

All of her designs are manufactured in her hometown and they’re all handmade by artisans without the use (for the most part) of any machines—some of the leather is laser cut, and that can’t be done by hand, says Zagnolli.  She says the varied Brazilian landscape and animals inspire her designs.

Her Fall 2012 collection comprises beautiful leather cuffs and bib necklaces in dark chocolate and coffee tones, featuring defined cut outs, perfectly forming butterflies and delicate abstract patterns.  Zagnolli’s eco-friendly collection offers simple elastic band necklaces and bracelets using recycled wood and metal detailing.

Zagnolli says she tried manufacturing in China, but they weren’t able to articulate her vision. 

“It looked kind of like what I’d designed, but never the way I fully imagined it. They couldn’t really copy the pieces and they used machines,” she says.

The year 2012 was a landmark one for the 30-something designer. In 2011 she was selling around 100 pieces per month, she says; today she averages sales of over 800.  

She’s been featured on the pages of People Magazine, on the cover of Maxim and Elle Brazil magazines, and the well-known Brazilian singer and songwriter Paula Fernandes de Souza is a huge fan of her work; wearing her pieces in photo shoots and music videos.

Zagnolli’s jewelry and handbags sell in boutiques worldwide—Brazil, the United States, England, France, and Kuwait—her goal is to expand her online sales beyond the United States as well.

“When people think of Brazil, they think of soccer, models, and the Amazon. I’d like the phrase 'Made in Brazil' to equal great quality," she says. "We’re already known for our leatherwork, and one of newest branches of my line is jewelry for men. I make leather bracelets that men love.  I try to make sure my work is a mix of our culture, people, and nature all coming together to set the accessories apart."  

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Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.