A chat with Cambridge Satchel Company founder, Julie Deane

In my opinion, the bag makes the lady. In this case, the bag company made a huge difference in the lady’s life. How, you ask?

The interview
Julie Deene

Well, it all started with an idea, and today, we’re finding out more about the Cambridge Satchel Company, its gorgeous bags and the woman behind the designs.

SheKnows: How did the Cambridge Satchel Company get started?

Julie Deane: After being a stay at home mum for eight years, I knew I would soon be starting something. It felt right, but the real impetus came from my daughter being bullied at school — I needed to make enough money to send her to a private school. I couldn’t send Emily and not Max (my other child), and so the thought of two school fees [really gave me an inspirational boost]. I’m not an advocate for private schools, but I am for knowing what’s best for your child, in your area and doing what it takes to make it happen.

SheKnows: So why satchels? Did you always have a passion for handbags?

Deane: No, but I have always had a passion for well made, well designed items that will last. Low maintenance yet stylish, and no, that doesn’t describe me!

I had a leather satchel at school and it lasted for years and looked better with age and use. I was particularly fed up with my children’s schoolbags looking grubby or emblazoned with a faddy logo or theme. We had been reading Harry Potter and so I told them all about my satchel, as I was sure Hogwarts would have demanded them based on that uniform…

Cambridge Satchel

SheKnows: I love that your bags are made in British workshops. How important was it to you to have your brand be produced in your country? It really seems to set you apart from many other brands that outsource these days.

Deane: Having the bags made in the UK is very important to me. I want to know where the bags are made and the people who make them. When the satchels arrive here in Cambridge, they are seen by everyone as special. They aren’t faceless widgets with no personality that have been shipped from the other side of the world. It would be easier to meet demand by having them mass made overseas, but that’s not us.

SheKnows: It seems like more and more women are developing their own fashion businesses these days. What advice do you have for women who have a passion but just don’t have the funds to get started?

Deane: I started Cambridge Satchel with a budget of £600. I have never borrowed or gone overdrawn so it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but it does need passion and commitment. Women need to give it a go. The web means that you can deal with the whole world from your kitchen table. That’s what I did and look what happened!

SheKnows: The brand has a great celebrity following. What is it about satchels that you think has made them such a budding phenomenon?

Deane: The story behind the brand has an enormous effect — people like to know what they’re buying and feel proud of what they carry. The Cambridge Satchel has become an enormous hit — the fluoros (or neons) were a big breakthrough for us, and they got us noticed, but the design is classic — simple and timeless. Our colors mean there is a perfect bag for everyone. The fashion bloggers gave us momentum and we will always be grateful to them for getting us out of the kitchen.

Cambridge Satchel

SheKnows: What’s next for the brand? Any new, fun lines coming out soon?

Deane: We have a wonderful new color combo launching in the next couple of weeks which is a very special bag to me, and then the Christmas metallic palette is very strong. And then… the new shape!

SheKnows: Any other advice for women striving to create their own fashion business?

Deane: Do it — don’t listen to the people who aren’t doing it. Find someone who will support you and stand in your corner whatever, for me that’s my mum. What have you got to lose? And just think how you could change your life and the life of your family.

Watch: Julie Deane’s inspirational story

Find out how Julie Deane and the Cambridge Satchel Company got their start!

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