KleinLife has added luxury handbag production to its assortment of offerings.
The weekly knitting groups at KleinLife now contribute their work to Mim & Ray, a luxury handbag line launched May 17 and named after Miriam and Raymond Klein, the benefactors that established KleinLife in 1975.
The manufacturing of each purse begins with a panel from the KleinLife knitters, which is then surrounded by Italian leather or alligator skin, depending on the bag.
For Toby Strogatz, founder and CEO of Mim & Ray, the impetus to launch her line of designer handbags stemmed from her work with KleinLife’s older adult members.
“I was a yoga therapist at KleinLife,” Strogatz explained. “A lot of women were isolated in their homes. They had outlived their families and their money. At KleinLife they could get a hot meal and find a community.”
Seeking to increase programming for the KleinLife family she adopted, Strogatz launched a knitting group, which grew into an ardently attended gathering. She soon realized the women consistently created beautiful works.
With a background in design, Strogatz grew determined to produce a product with the knittings that could be sold to help the women and KleinLife.
“We cannot believe the seed was planted last January and now we’re launching,” Strogatz said.
The quickened pace does not cloud Strogatz’s vision, however.
“The main point of all of this is that KleinLife profits,” she explained.
Mim & Ray is operated by TobyStephens Design Inc., a registered nonprofit, and all net proceeds are split between the knitters and KleinLife. Additionally, the company pays a 10 percent licensing fee to KleinLife.
Strogatz recorded a video series with the knitters to showcase their works.
Katalin Willner, of Hungary, described a life of difficulties: “Being Jewish in Europe, were taken to concentration camps. So we went to Israel… In 1960, we came here. I lost my husband 11 years ago, and I was lost without him. I find a lot of friends here.”
The loss of a loved one is familiar to Strogatz, whose husband died 13 years ago. The loss deeply affected her, she described, explaining that now “it’s all about family and love.”
The desire to appreciate family translates well into Mim & Ray, which Strogatz’s partner, Stephen Klein, helps operate. Additionally, her daughter, Jennifer, serves as co-designer, and each Mim & Ray bag is named after a family member.
“It’s brought the whole family together,” Strogatz said.
Moving forward, Strogatz hopes community centers across the nation adopt Mim & Ray’s model.
“Someday, we’re all going to be there,” she said of old age. “What better thing than to give [older adults] purpose and help them get back on their feet?”