Bucklesbury: Where It All Started
Edita Macfarlane is not at ease with compromise. After growing up near to Bratislava and then studying her MA at Business School in the South of France, she travelled the world before settling in London four years ago.
Aged 27 and fluent in five languages including Slovak, Czech, Russian, French and English; and with a passion for all things British from Henry VIII to Winston Churchill, Edita is the founder of Bucklesbury – an Anglo-Italian luxury brand focused on handmade Attaché Cases and Backpacks for men and women in business.
“Like many women in business, I often found myself needing to stand out or to make a statement. I’d relish the opportunity to travel for work, and when I did I’d always carry a nice handbag to complement my look. But by necessity, I’d also need to carry a ‘standard-issue’ black nylon laptop bag, which are invariably very masculine and unstylish.”
Edita realized that what she and thousands of women like her needed, was to carry a single bag for business and for travel that would combine the practicality of a laptop bag with the beauty and style of a handbag. Looking at the obvious brands for business bags, she realized that women were not being well-served in the ‘executive’ baggage category:
“I wanted something classic and timeless but with a modern and contemporary twist and with some natural curves. I'm inspired by the beauty of the natural world, where there are no straight lines or sharp corners. But everything I could find was dark-coloured and with ruler-straight edges. It was all very practical and sensible, but it wasn’t 'special'. The executive bags offered by ‘accessible brands’ were completely ubiquitous; and there was nothing at the higher-quality luxury ‘superbrand’ end of the market for under US$1,000.”
‘Accessible brands’ such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Tory Burch have proven the demand for ‘accessible luxury’. But according to a Exane BNP Paribas report, ‘superbrands’ such as Louis Vuitton have fundamentally abandoned the <$1,000 price point. Bucklesbury believes that the ‘accessible brand’ shopper is growing tired of ‘luxury for everyone’ and now seeks ‘accessible’ pricing, but on items with the extra-special qualities and ‘non-ubiquitous’ characteristics of a superbrand – especially when to comes to bags.
And so, in 2016 Edita founded Bucklesbury, with a mission to create practical and beautiful Italian leather Attaché Cases and Backpacks for men and for women, offered at the price of an accessible brand, but with the style and quality and skilled artisan craftsmanship that one might expect from a high-fashion global superbrand.
Working with an Italian production partner, every Bucklesbury is designed in England and then handcrafted in Italy using traditional artisanal methods and secrets that have been passed down and remained unchanged since 1948. It takes more than sixteen hours for a skilled craftsman to create each bag; with intentional variations in the colour and material ensuring that each bag is truly individual and unique.
In its first year Bucklesbury exported to customers in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, UAE and the USA; and has become a well-traded secret in the UK and Ireland, with many customers reporting extraordinary reactions from their colleagues and fellow Tube passengers, who regularly stop them to talk about and take photos of their Bucklesbury.
“I’m really proud of where we’ve got to so far and there are exciting times ahead. I’ve had women with a wardrobe full of designer bags exclaim that they ‘don’t have this’ and that it is exactly what they were missing. And since introducing new colours such as navy blue, over one-third of new customers have been men who are looking for something a bit stylish. To become a Bucklesbury owner is to join a small-but-growing club of women and men who are saying no to ‘luxury for everyone’ brands, and yes to the uniquely individual beauty and practicality of a handmade Bucklesbury."
Bucklesbury has been celebrated at a number of prestigious luxury goods and shopping events; and was recently promoted with great enthusiasm by digital influencer and SheTrades ambassador Xenia Tchoumi to her 2 million Instagram and 6 million Facebook followers.
And whilst Bucklesbury can be found in a small number of independent stores stocked alongside global superbrands such as Longchamp, Osprey and St DuPont; for Edita, the challenge is to build the brand whilst also remaining a well-traded secret:
“As Bucklesbury grows, so does the pressure to multiply the size of the range and to create an ‘accessible brand’ offering. Whilst that might offer better margins than handcrafting from the finest Italian leather, it would undermine the ‘specialness’ of the brand. And I don’t want people to lose the excitement that they get when they first discover Bucklesbury, or that sense that you are part of a small-but-growing club of enthusiasts.”
And on that point, Edita says, there is no room for compromise.
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