Interview with handbag designer Stacy Chan

Find out how her love of handbags led former banker Stacy Chan to enroll at the London College of Fashion and launch her own designer handbag brand.

What’s your career background?

I was born and raised in New York and I spent 10 years working in finance in New York, London and Geneva, before finally putting down roots in London. After a long career in investment banking, private equity and a hedge fund, I finally made the move into luxury design thanks to my longstanding love of handbags.

Where did the idea for the business come from?

My love of clutch bags was the foundation for the brand. I began sketching ideas in my spare time with the ultimate goal of creating a handbag brand that was new and unique yet still elegant and well-made. The results were designs distinguishable by their clean lines, geometric shapes and bold pairing of colours.

The brand has since expanded to include larger handbags and backpacks while staying true to this idea of modern design paired with quality craftsmanship.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I enrolled at the London College of Fashion where I started to fully develop my designs. From here, I began speaking to Italian manufacturers who would be able to bring my ideas to life.

The decision to work with a manufacturer in Italy was important to ensure the products are made with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship. The brand officially launched in 2013 and has since expanded to include a wider range, from clutch bags to totes, backpacks and work bags.

Who’s your target audience?

My designs are inspired by strong, modern women and aims to serve them in their busy lives. Whether she is dressing for work, out for an evening of cocktails or off for a weekend getaway, our handbags ensure she is conveying luxury at every occasion with her dynamic life.

What is your USP?

I believe what makes the brand different than the others out there is that I am offering styles that feel fresh and modern, but still have a classic and timeless aesthetic.

Our handbags will continue to wear well and fit the needs of a modern woman regardless of how the fashions change from season to season and year to year. In addition, as a designer who spent many years in the corporate world, I ‘test drive’ all the handbags, shortening straps, adding pockets, even changing the construction of the samples to be able to fit a laptop or phone. Function meets design!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Running your own business can be a bit of a rollercoaster – the lows can seem very low and the highs feel like you’ve finally cracked the code until the next obstacle. There always seem to be new and different hurdles each step of the way.

For instance, when I finally received the first samples of my evening bags after a year, the new iPhone was launched and was too large to fit inside the bags!

It was back to the drawing board and the clutches had to be redesigned. Problems can often seem unsurmountable, but one of the keys to surviving as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry is to be passionate about what you’re doing and believe in your success.

Your proudest moment so far?

Coming from a non-design background, one of my proudest moments was seeing things that I had drawn on paper become something real and tangible. Every time a new handbag design is realised, I get excited.

I also feel a sense of pride when customers tell me how much they love their handbag and come back their second or third purchase a year or two later as it tells me that not only are my designs continuing to resonate with them, but so is the quality of the materials and craftsmanship.

What’s your advice to someone wanting to do something similar?

Changing careers can be very exciting, but it can also be very daunting. I highly recommend people take a short course in their potential new career to get a taste of what they’re getting in to.

Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of persistence and you will undoubtedly hear a lot of ‘no’s before you start getting some ‘yes’es. You need to be really passionate about your new venture to withstand the setbacks and keep going.

You can see more of Stacy Chan’s designs on her website