Diego Rocha moved from Brazil to Chicago 10 years ago to pursue his dream of creating top-notch accessories.
His creations have earned him a prestigious industry honor.
Rocha came to this country in 2001 from Brazil, where he had worked in finance. Ten years later, he opened his first store in the Gold Coast neighborhood and says 2011 has been a great year.
"I am having the best year for my business. I have increased over 60 percent of my clientele," he said.
This year, In Style Magazine named him the winner of the Independent Handbag Designer Award, the Oscars of handbag design, for his handmade ostrich, Baby Jane bag that he's now shipping all over the country.
"According to them, I have the best handmade handbag in the entire world," Rocha said. "The Baby Jane is a classic handbag. It is very lightweight, and it is like a timeless bag."
Rocha says he is a control freak who works nonstop 36-48 hours creating each bag and selecting skins like ostrich, python and crocodile that vary in price. Clients can select from more than 200 colors of skins and from a variety of styles. The handles, hardware and the inside of the bag are just as important to him in creating his piece of art.
"It is like going to a dealership and building your own car, but you are doing this with handbags," Rocha said. "I try to understand what they do have, what they don't have, what is their favorite colors, what kind of shape and their lifestyles... Every woman gets a unique bag made for them."
The designer is already expanding his business, creating shoes and jewelry using the same exotic materials.
"I am so in love with this," Rocha said. "This is my baby for 2012. I cannot wait to start making them."
Rocha has also selected the colors, skins and styles for his 2012 spring line. The 37-year-old plans to open a second store in Miami next year.