How this mom turned an afternoon tea into a multimillion dollar business.
Do you know what Taylor Swift, Elle Fanning and Emma Stone all have in common? Well, the California sun when they look up and a zillion followers on Instagram is definitely among the answers. They also share the love for a rather British leather bag.
The bag in question is called The Cambridge Satchel Company, and it was created during an afternoon tea by a mom wanting to save her daughter from being bullied at school. “It just seemed like my daughter needs moving — that’s the school, that’s how much it costs, and so that’s what needs to happen”, says Julie Deane of what drove her to start CSC back in the 2008.
Seating by her kitchen’s table, Julie fashioned together a couple old cereal boxes and wrapped them in brown paper for a prototype. Microsoft Word’s “Paint” function was put into action for designing the logo. She ran onto Google to search for suppliers, and taught herself how to get a website up in just two days through an online free course. And so $775 became a $65 million business in only five years.
Inspired by her frustration with the poor quality of school backpacks for her children, Julie recreated an icon. In fluorine leather, with prints or in classic solid navy and red she sells bags to 120 countries all over the world and has reached the shoulders of celebs like Taylor Swift, Alexa Chung, Zooey Deschanel and Elle Fanning.
Fashion brands usually flow between different materials at every new collection. CSC has always worked with leather. Why?
Our bags were inspired by traditional British school satchels. The satchels were always made from the kind of leather that we still use today. We found that sometimes it’s not the easiest material to work with, but it is absolutely true to that traditional bag and that’s what gives our satchel that distinctive authentic look.
Brands are facing a great challenge which is to protect themselves from copycats. You’ve once said that keeping prices low was a way to make it possible for everyone to buy CSC bags.
Keeping prices fair is definitely a very powerful way of maintaining the accessibility of the brand so that people can buy the original, rather than feel that they have to buy something that looks like the brand that they admire. The best way is to make sure that we are a brand that is continually moving forward rather than looking over our shoulder. Constant evolution and constant improvement of what we do is how we keep ahead.
There’s probably no other word that’s more relevant for fashion today than transparency. People wanna now what’s really going on. How do you face that?
Transparency and honesty about our pricing has meant that our customers, followers and fans of the brand realize that they haven’t been taken advantage of. Fairness is very important to us. Not only does it add to the value and the perception of the product, but it adds to the loyalty to the brand.