• 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)

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
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Photo: TT

Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains

Torrential rains in western Sweden have left some towns submersed as water levels have risen to 1.5 metres above normal for the season with forecasts indicating that is worse to come. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
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

977
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
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN