Archive | August 2009

Change of address form!

Hey ! You want to keep up with the latest updates from  our new blog ?

Come over to our new home “” !

I wanted to be able to show you some more great tutorials on how to make a handbag. So I had to self-host my blog. There’re more tutorials, more info, more things you may want to know about accessory design.

I’ll still post here ,but there more just a click away!


How Do I Start A Handbag Business?

How do I start a handbag business?

I’ve heard that question asked a thousands times. The answer is simple: start the business. There’s no set formula. You just make some bags and see if anyone wants to buy them. It’s sort of symbiotic -you just kinda become a business. You design, you make, you sell.  That’s the business.
People start that process in many different ways but the idea is the same no matter what level you start out at.

What’s the first thing I need?

To make samples or have your samples made. This is your first test. In most cases the designer makes the first samples, especially when starting out. Samples, if not made by the designer can be very expensive.  A promising young designer can get the backing of a manufacturer who would then produce the samples for the rights to manufacture, but In most cases this is unlikely, so be prepared to do your own.

Do my samples have to be perfect?

They have to be pretty good! You need to bring a quality item to the table every time you show your designs. Weakness in design and workmanship will be pointed out by buyers. Buyers want style, quality and a good price point. Your samples are the first thing they see about you and what you bring to the table. Your samples should be as good as you are.

What’s the next thing I need, now that I have my samples?

Orders! Why?

They let you know you can sell your work! They are your first indication that you have a business. They are your confidence builder! Plus they provide you with with revenue.

As an accessory designer, orders are your validation,  Let me say reorders are your validation. I think anyone can get their first order. You just go to your local boutiques and show the buyer, who’s usually the owner. Boutiques are the first source for innovative design. With validation comes confidence and that translates into more sales. When you don’t have orders you cease to be a business and you lose confidence in your designs. So go get some orders!


A young designer walks into local boutiques and speaks with the buyers of each boutique. Shows the samples that they made and makes a sale. Each boutique orders 6 to 12 bags. They want delivery in 30 days. Realizing that you’re just starting out and can’t afford to carry the usual 30 day net. Plus the fact that they haven’t established a credit worthy relationship with you and these first orders are test orders. They agree to pay you when you COD.

Reorders are where the money is! It’s relatively easy to get first orders, the trick is the reorders. Reorders let you know the public likes your work!

I got orders! Now What?

You sold, say, 75 bags your first week. Not quite enough to get manufactured, but you know- you feel that this is just the beginning. More orders are on the way. You’re passionate, so you decide to setup your own shop to get the orders out. You don’t have a big budget.

Let’s say your budget is $12.000, you’ve scraped this up by borrowing , montary gifts from family and friends.

What will you need? Here’s your wishlist!

600- 800 sq ft of space
2-Juki sewing machines/ walking foot
2- Cylinder machine
2-Cutting tables 8 to 10 feet
4-catch bins
1-Glue area /Good ventilation or wear a gas mask. Glue is really toxic.
Your are including a table ,glue gun and or machine.
2-Stud setters and spot setters.

Lets start with a space we need at least 600 sq feet, it’s going to be tight but, it’s the beginning of something, not the final result. It’s a work space.

600sqft @ $1.25 sqft =750.00 a month two months $1500

Got to have two great machines none better then having two used Juki’s $2500.00.
Two used cylinder machines  for 1500.00 is about right.
If you are going to do leather get a skiver : $350.00

Clicker or Die cut press. Clicks out the pattern pieces from the die cuts that were made from the patterns . Allows you to cut out 100’s of patterns a day.

Brand new around $1600 used as little as $500.00+. Lets say $750.00 because you’re on the cheap.

Cutting table 6-8 ft long 200.00. Worst case you can make one!

2 Catch bins $45.00

Gluing area, You got to have this. Some of the glues I recommend you use for extra strength and quality are very toxic to breathe. You must use a well ventilate area. Wear a mask at all times.

$250.00 to setup the area.

2 stud setters or spot setters. Makes putting on ornaments a lot easier.

Can get them for $150.00 -200 a piece if you search. Maybe less!

So lets see we have:


Total $7395.00

So your budget  was $12.000, now maybe you got $2000 for salaries.

Then you will need your materials, fabric and leather.

You’re now ready to produce 200-250 bags a week, depending on the bag.

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Handbag in Asia?

It depends on the bag and the quantity. You also need to take into consideration how labor intensive is the bag? A sports bag is not as complex to make as a box bag. The Chinese don’t consider 1000-5000 bags a big quantity.

I developed a sports bag that I wanted to market. This was a sling bag prototype, that I was able to get a patent on. I could only afford small quantities.

To get 1000 bags made was going to cost me $10.72 per bag. If I could have afforded to purchase 100,000 bags my price would have been 5.16 per bag. Because I couldn’t get the price down to $4 a bag, I couldn’t compete with the other backpack and sling bag makers. Stores needed to be able to offer the bag at no more then $29.95.

There only one way to find out! Contact a US based manufacturer. Send your sample or your pattern to them. You can send the pattern via a PDF file. Ask for a quote! In most cases you’ll get and answer in 48 hours. If you feel nervous about sending out your designs. It’s part of the game call trust.There not interested in your design, they don’t have orders for it!  Second point is this, most US manufactures have a base in China!  So they can give the overseas price.

You also need to take into account which Asian country are you talking about. You can get stuff done in Vietnam cheaper then mainland China. The difference maybe quality. The world is in search of the cheapest labor force, even the Chinese. As there labor force grows and expects more, the Chinese invest in cheap labor in Africa.

Video Tutorial Update!

Okay I’m Back! Been working on a few video tutorials. This series of tutorials are basic pattern making techniques.They should provide you with a basic understanding of pattern making. This set of tutorials will guide you through the steps needed to make and design a high quality handbag.

I’ve been thinking about this project for a long time. It feels great to finally get it off the ground. My wife Linda did a great job on many of the tutorials. This is our first attempt at doing tutorials, so if you have any comments , kickum this way! We look forward to bringing some more complex bags and patterns your way.

We posted the video’s on YouTube.  UPDATED: We now have them at

This site is still under construction, so bear with me.

Video #1 Front / Back Pattern

Video #2 The Gusset

Video #3 The Flap

Video #3 The Flap/Part 2

Video #3 The Flap Lining/Part 3

Video #4 The Strap/Handle

Video #5 The Outside/Cutting Pattern

Video #6 The Lining Pattern

Check out the video’s and let us know what you think.

Part 2: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Overseas Production

As you can see I can be long winded,so let’s try to get back to the subject which is overseas production vs US  production. As already stated I’m a strong supporter for the latter. I’m only speaking of this in terms of accessory designers starting out with nothing but a dream. I’m only speak about what I know.

My main reasoning, control, quality, better turn around time, and a reasonable amount of flexible. For those reason I’m an avid support of US manufactured products. I also think there’s a great market for  small US manufactures to exploit. They have the capability and capacity to compete on so many different levels.

It will be hard to compete  with labor cost, but we can compete with the other factors that are important to getting your products to market.

If we highlighted these advantages, we may not be able to get all of the manufacturing back. However we could regain some manufacturing and stem the tide of others who succumb everyday to overseas pressure.

  • Shorter turn around time. Orders can be place 30 – 60 days, sometimes in as little as 2 weeks.. Instead of 60 days to  6 months depending on the size of the order overseas.
  • It allows stores to purchase less and yet maintain inventories. Reducing initial capital expenditure  and keep more cash on hand. Resulting in lower inventories. Lower inventories could mean higher profits. No need for constantly reducing the price of your products. I’m going to give you the perfect example below.
  • It allows for greater flexibility in adapting to changing trends in consumer taste. Most orders are 6 months to a year in the pipeline. If something gets hot the stores aren’t stuck with what’s not!

These are just a few advantages that I can think of for designers to pitch when taking with buyers about the higher price points.

If you go with a contractor, you have a vast wealth of knowledge that they bring to the table. They can help perfect your designs, help with resourcing and you can go visit the factory, in most cases for a airline ticket for less then $350.00 . You have control of your product and you have legal recourse.

**The perfect example:

Years ago a product called Danskin Dancewear came on the market. The product was in such demand that the manufacture would only supply vendors who paid up front or on short net terms. They( at the time) kept inventories low and they got paid. Scarcity translates into lower volume and higher prices that can be sustained over a longer period of time.

Setting up your own shop ahhhhhh.

It deserves a post all it’s own! I’m going to tell you the basic setup need to start your own handbag factory. For less then $15,000!  Equipment needed…… everything!

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Overseas Production

I’m only giving you the point of view of a small business owner. Who learned many of my lesson the hard way. Now common sense prevails!

I remember my FIT professor Michele Lelonde telling me” don’t grow too fast…slow down”. I didn’t heed her warnings. The trapping of possible success turned my head. By not heeding her warnings, I lost my business. I didn’t take the time to allow my knowledge to caught up with where I was in business. In other words … I didn’t know what I was doing! Sometimes in life the best teacher, is other peoples mistakes.

When starting out, get your first few orders, then start putting your house in order. Have a plan! Don’t be swept up in the moment.Figure out what you need and then multiply by 100 times.

Whatever you think you need…you need more! That’s no lie.

Decide where you want to go with manufacturing .

Do you want to setup your own shop ?

Do you want to contract the work to a state side manufacturer or do you want to ship the work overseas?

Manufacturing is like your shopping cart on a website. Everything revolves around it.

I’m a big advocate for the reemergence of manufacturing in the USA. I think our quality is better and I think, you save money in the long run. I believe, that the people that buy your products should also be able to afford it. If I’m selling it here,  it should be made here.

There are many advantages to overseas manufacturing the biggest being a cheaper price. To be truthful that’s the only advantage. In most cases you have to order in fairly large quantities, so you need  fairly large orders. You will need letters of credit verifying payment. Which will be held in escrow until the orders are satisfied.  There can be many uncertainties , manufacturing delays,shipping delays, quality, can all become an issue.

The quality of the material while they look good may not hold up under continues use. I remember a friend of mine had just brought a new designer handbag. It looked great! She paid over $300.00 for the tote. Six months later it was falling apart-fraying around the edges. You really have to stay on top of your quality when working with overseas manufacturing. be especially concerned with the thread used. If the thread is weak, the bag will fall apart.

As I said earlier, in most cases you have to put the money in an account that will guarantee the manufactures payment. Since the chances are that if your going overseas you got a big order!  You will also have to carry that paper up to 120 day net, for the stores that placed the order. The bigger the order the more debt you will need to carry. It will also be about 4-6 months before the manufacture will ship your product. So it could easily be 8-10 months before you see a ROI. Be prepared!

There are many small manufacturers across the United States, they are expense. Many have sub-contractors in Asia, ready and willing to take your order. This could be an advantage for the upstart designer. This allows you to develop a trust  and establish a standard of quality for your products. This could also give you time to develop at your own pace,  allowing your business savvy to grow,  into handling the day to day chores of a business.

Okay that’s all for today c-ya! I’ll finish this tomorrow……

How to Get Your Handbags Into a New York Boutique!

One of the things that limits the exposure of many accessory designers who are just starting out, is getting products to the stores. There are several ways a new accessory designer can start to gain exposure in the marketplace. However there are a few things you will need in place. Consider this!

1. The first and most important is production.  Am I ready to fill an order? After you have come up with an accessory line, How do I get it made? What will it cost? Production will be a concern as long as you are in business. Think about how big do I really want to be? The answers may help you lay the ground work for setting up  production, so that it expands with your needs. Another subject we will talk about later is Overseas Production vs US Production.

Size means more risk, less control, more people, more money, more reward. If… you measure success by the amount of possessions you have.

If you measure success by your happiness index then you may like smaller, profitable fun!

2. Do I have good samples? Samples can be made by you.  The samples you see in my press releases were made by me. That’s what this blog is about, to get you to the point of having a set of samples that you can take to a show. a rep or buyer. If you are fortunate enough to afford manufacturing then the manufacturer will provide you with a set of samples. Patterns have to be made, 1st samples have to be made. You can cut your cost by making the first sample and pattern yourself. Every manufacturer will eventual make their own pattern.

3. Vendors Day or Open Call Day, believe it or not, almost every accessory boutique has a day when you can come in and show your collection or items to a buyer. My first order came for an open call day at Felissimo on 56th and 5th ave. They’re fun. You meet Buyers, other designers and you start to get a sense of the business. It’s fun! You can pretty much walk into any boutique and speak with the buyer. We  got into Patricia Fields on 8 st. in the West Village by simply walking in and asking for the buyer.

4. Getting a Rep! Worth the effort! They know the market, they’re always looking for the next big thing, which could be you. But you have to chose carefully. The wrong rep and your work could sit. Price points are also a consideration when choosing a rep. Don’t have a $300.00 bag with someone who reps $20 items. A $300 buyer is not walking in to that showroom. Ask if they are boutique reps are do they have department store contacts. You may not be ready for a department store!

5. Can I sustain the debt if I strike gold? Big question! It will determine how you market your designs, who you market to and how quickly you can grow. Understand that in almost all cases you will have to have a 30-60-90-120 day net! What does that mean? It means you will have to carry that debt for those amount of days. Only in the smaller boutiques can you get paid on delivery.If you get one department store, that orders $30000 worth of product, can you take the strain of not being paid for 90-120 days! It’s an important question that needs an answer!

6. Create an eye catching collection! Be bold ! Get attention with your designs. Your first designs could be some of your most exciting designs So sketch and sketch some more and save each and everyone for tomorrows inspiration. Boutiques love to buy things that bring the customer through the doors.

The pay off is doing something you love!

Learn design, know design, love design, to design!