Just start. That’s Houston born designer Alexandria Alli’s go to phrase and the approach she took with her handbag collection F&W Style. Many of us have dreams that we hide, waiting for the right time to hatch them. Often times however, they never hatch because we talk ourselves out of them. Not so with Alex. With just a nudge of encouragement from her husband she started sketching her first design and created her first handbag.
Alex immediately began exploring how to get her luxury handbags in stores. Though she had only 3 bags in her collection her fortitude was limitless. Despite “no” after “no” after “no” and hearing your handbag is not expensive enough, or its too expensive, or your handbag collection is too small, she kept asking, she kept pressing, she kept trying. Finally she had her chance. If you don’t start you’d never get your moment.
In my chat with Alex she also stressed the importance of relationships and the people factor in business. Connecting and developing a relationship with a show room owner at America’s Mart gave her that first opportunity which then got her handbags in several boutiques. Later, a ‘staycation’ at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta sparked an idea to get her handbags in their shops. Once again she used her people skills to make the necessary calls, foster relationships with the buyers, and share her handbags to get them to sell her bags in their stores.
What I really admire about Alex is her ability to see when there’s nothing to see. The Ritz Carlton ‘staycation’ was actually a just pick me up planned by her girlfriends as she was despondent at where her business was at the time. While there she saw the potential of the Ritz Carlton for her handbags. It reminds us that there’s opportunity and inspiration all around us if we just took a moment to see beyond the now. Here’s what else Alex shared with us:
Are you self taught or did you go to design school
I am self taught! My mom is also a designer so a grew up helping her out in her design studio and picking up skills like sketching, a little sewing, and technical design skills
Did you always want to design handbags?
I modeled for years and I loved being in the fashion industry. When my modeling career ended I went on to getting my Master in Business Administration and started working as a Bank Manager at a major bank. I loved what I did but I didn’t have the same passion as I did when I was in the fashion industry. My husband was the one that actually pushed me follow my passion, and do what I love! So, I started putting some sketches together and created my first handbag.
How did you get started?
I always knew I wanted to be in fashion but I just didn’t know how. I started out as a model, working for major companies in the south. Through modeling I fell in love with luxury goods especially handbags. But I soon realized that a lot of the handbags I modeled very expensive and out of the range for most women including myself. So, I set out to change that by creating a collection of well crafted luxury leather handbags at an attainable price for busy women on the go. As time goes on we would love to expand our brand to other categories like clothes. But, for now we have our hands full with all things handbags.
What 5 tips would you share for a designer trying to get their business off the ground?
Know what sets you apart from anyone else
Find your target market and create a brand that speaks directly to them
Don’t give up or let anyone tell you that your dream isn’t valid
Build relationships with people! This is very important.
Just start already! There is never a perfect moment, Just do it!
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration form every day working women. I think about what handbags she needs that will have her looking stylish yet functional throughout her day.
What woman are you designing for?
She is a woman that has a busy family life, social life, and a career life, but does it all with style and grace. I provide colorful, well crafted luxury handbags that take her from day to night without breaking the bank!
What makes your handbag special?
There are several things that make our handbags special. The quality is a big one for us. We want our handbags to be compared to the Chanels and Louis Vuittons in quality but without the $1000. price tag. So we spend a lot of time working on our craftsmanship. We also create very colorful handbags — all our handbags even have a hot pink lining. It’s like a dose of happiness in every bag. Another thing that makes F&W Style special is the fact that it is owned by a Nigerian Woman. There are not many African American designers that are a household names. My goal is to change that. I want to leave a blue print for young people to know that with hard work and dedication, they too can be the next Kate Spade or Tory Burch etc.
Where do you see yourself and your handbags in 5 years?
Being an household brand name!
Where can we buy your bags?
You can purchase directly on our site www.fwstyle.com. Our handbags are also sold in over 90 retailers around the US. Stock lists are listed on our site.
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