• Sweden edition
 
English designer carries handbag brand to Sweden

English designer carries handbag brand to Sweden

Published: 24 Jun 2009 15:15 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Jun 2009 15:15 GMT+02:00

Cawthra, 30, is the founder and creative director of Belen Enchandia, a small company that has quickly made a major name for itself in the high fashion world of handbag production.

“We have big ambitions to grow a lot, and I think that we will,” says Cawthra. “When I started this company in 2004 I didn’t set out to fail.”

Cawthra, who was born in northern England, says a trip to Madrid sparked her dream to start the company. After finishing her undergraduate degree in law, she applied for a job at a firm in Spain to gain work experience before starting law school.

She stayed in Madrid for one year, working at the firm in the mornings, nannying in the afternoons, and window-shopping at designer purse stores on weekends. She says she soon realized that nothing similar existed in London, and approached a company to set up sales in England.

“I’m not really fashion crazy, I just saw a business opportunity,” says Cawthra. “Nothing happened for two years, and then I was halfway through my legal practice course back in England and I got an e-mail from that company asking if I was still interested in working with them.”

She says at that point, she realized her calling wasn’t to be a distributor, but to start her own company. Still working in a law firm, she spent every spare moment establishing Belen Enchandia, calling shops like Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges to tell them about her new company that was different from other mass-produced brands.

“In other luxury brands, the bags are made in China, so bag-making has been turned into an industry rather than an art form,” Cawthra explains. She says some small boutiques showed interest in her bags, but it was a meeting with an editor at www.vogue.com that sent sales through the roof.

“When they posted our first real piece of press, our website had 15,000 hits in 24 hours, and crashed overnight,” recalls Cawthra. “That’s how we got our first international customers.”

Cawthra now has two assistants, based in London, though she moved to Stockholm in March, where her web design team is based. The bags are hand-made by a team of eight in Italy.

She says what’s different about Belen Enchandia is its personalized service given to every customer: the ability to custom-create a bag, interact with a stylist, and know the bag was hand-made for a fair price. The bags are stylish and functional, Cawthra says, and the company is always open to suggestions for improvement.

“We are the only luxury handbag company in the world with a site that lets you design your style, leather, hardware,” says Cawthra. “We interact with our customers. The great thing about being a small company is that we can react very fast. If we have a good idea, we can make it happen in two weeks instead of two years.”

When Belen Enchandia first started, the bags were made in Madrid, where Cawthra had established her first connections as an entrepreneur. But she says her desire to develop and produce new styles caused her to head to Le Marche, Italy, where she could more easily work one-on-one with a smaller atelier.

“About 90 per cent of traditional ateliers have closed because of factories in China taking over,” says Cawthra. “We have an ambition to support these artisans and real Italian manufacturing methods.”

The next step for Belen Enchandia is tapping into the Swedish market, says Cawthra, especially now that she’s living in Stockholm.

“People here are interested in good quality and looking good,” she says. “But I think what’s lacking here is a well-made Italian and international handbag company. The only barrier is people knowing about us, and the VAT (sales tax) which is so high, so it makes the bags more expensive.”

Cawthra says customers often e-mail her to say they are surprised by how much a bag can make them feel special, and that’s when she knows she’s succeeded at her job. She says she has formed friendships with many customers over the years, and is happy to empower them to make decisions – even if about something as seemingly innocent as a handbag.

Her focus is not on having celebrities photographed carrying Belen Enchandia bags, but targeting everyday women who want to be stylish, fashionable and chic without paying an exorbitant amount.

She started the company less than a decade ago, and Cawthra is now the mastermind behind an internationally recognized company, though she says it wouldn’t be ready to take on new challenges – like tapping into the Swedish market – if it weren’t for her team.

“It’s my vision and company, but I feel that I could never do this without everybody who is surrounding me,” says Cawthra. “Everyone needs to feel they contribute to our company’s philosophy of making life beautiful in various ways. It’s more than a business for me, it’s my life.”

Lydia Parafianowicz (lydia.parafianowicz@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

19:00 June 24, 2009 by askin
Congratulations to Belen Enchantia! It is a very unique idea which deserves to be successful.Indeed a tastefully designed handbag, reflecting the individuality of its owner, is much different than the mass-produced sort.

If I were a woman, I would definetely want to own one such hand bag! Perhaps she designs handbags for men some day...

Askin Ozcan,

Architect and Author
08:32 June 26, 2009 by Marc the Texan
Belen Enchandia - I think that is such a great name.

Congrats on the shrewd business move to Sweden. Since Sweden has the highest proportion of men who carry handbags in the EU, your marketing efforts will have much greater impact than in London where you can only market to women.
10:32 June 28, 2009 by Belenechandia
Thank you all!

We WILL indeed be introducing man bags very shortly, so watch this space! Or sign up to our website for updates.

Jackie XX
19:02 June 28, 2009 by byke
how much did you have to pay for this article? or did you know someone on the paper?
13:40 July 6, 2009 by Bagnut
Mastermind? Please take a look at a handbag blog site The Purse Forum, and Twitter to see the constant insults to other designers. BE are NOT the only handbag company that allow customers to design their own bag. Clearly, she feels the competition that many, including South American designers such as Ignes are giving her, as MANY have switched over to that brand due to issues with mixups in linings, leathers and quality control issues, not to mention incorrect bags being sent out.

These bags are nothing special, truly overrated, overhyped and overpriced for what they are.
00:30 July 10, 2009 by Kaethar
Wow, great! Well done and the best of luck to you!
Today's headlines
Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Forecasters have predicted sunshine across Sweden this week, with a warm front moving in from Russia and temperatures of up to 25C. READ  

International police hunt
Swedish killer arrested after European hunt
Photo: Police

Swedish killer arrested after European hunt

UPDATED: Police arrested a man on Tuesday afternoon after he went missing from a psychiatric ward in western Sweden at the weekend. The man had been convicted of murdering a five-year-old schoolgirl in 2003. READ  

Music
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Swedish singer Tove Lo. Photot: TT

The five best Swedish songs of the month

The summer may be (almost) over but the music will keep on playing here at The Local. Our resident music guru Paul Connolly will be selecting his top new Swedish tracks for us in a new monthly feature. READ  

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

African pygmy hedgehogs are being bought by growing numbers of Swedes, as a trend for keeping exotic pets sweeps the country, the Department for Animal Welfare and Health tells The Local. READ  

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden
The mushroom in this picture is not the same as the one from the story. Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden

A person selling freshly-picked mushrooms in Gothenburg has come under fire after it turned out the delicacies were not only poisonous but also hallucinogenic. READ  

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

The largest hacking case in Danish history began in confusion on Tuesday, after lawyers representing Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg accused the prosecution of "unreasonable" tactics. READ  

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

As H&M expands into Ethiopia, Sweden's state venture capital unit Swedfund has announced that it will back the clothing giant, in a move hoped to create more jobs for local women. READ  

Elections 2014
Social Democrats reveal election manifesto
Photo: TT

Social Democrats reveal election manifesto

UPDATED: Sweden's main opposition party the Social Democrats has revealed its election manifesto at a press conference at a high school in Stockholm, with a key focus on education and welfare benefits. READ  

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

A teenage boy is in a critical condition after he was hit by a passing metro train in Stockholm. The accident ground rail traffic to a halt, and has police suspecting attempted murder. READ  

Swimrun
Record win at Sweden's tough island race
Photo: Jakob Edholm/ÖTILLÖ14

Record win at Sweden's tough island race

Two Swedes crushed last year's course record at the Swimrun world championship in Stockholm's archipelago on Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Blog updates

02 September

America night (Blogweiser) »

" There was an event this weekend for the ‘Americans in Sweden’ Facebook group. I’m a member, and I brought my girls to the evening. The gathering was at a Boston-themed sportsbar in a mall. There were loads of screens, a bowling alley, a game room and a jumbotron. It was as good a place as any to..." READ »

 

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

757
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se