Mark Donatiello, brand leader of Elliott Lucca handbags and footwear, discovered there’s a lot of good “baggage” that comes with leading a 26-year-old handbag brand. In the case of Elliott Lucca, the New York-based handbag and — as of two years ago — footwear brand, there is a solid understanding of the modern female consumer. Since launching in 1989, the company has aimed to serve them all; from the career-focused woman of the ’90s (i.e. structured, lady-like designs) to today’s multitasking rock star which Donatiello said, “beats to her own drum” both in terms of style and lifestyle.
And then there is the initial design: a bucket bag made with from a woven rattan sleeping mat from Bali, which is kept in a framed box in the company’s Fifth Avenue showroom and where it continues to inspire. If Elliott Lucca’s sister brand, The Sak, is known for its crochet elements, woven leather is Elliott Lucca’s jam. “We build on our DNA,” Donatiello said. “We reinvent wovens. We play with them, mix materials, weave in different patterns. There’s a lot more from us, a bigger variety, than other manufacturers that can do it.”
Beyond woven leather, Elliott Lucca has garnered a following for its seasonal artisan collection — a line that typically consist of bohemian, hand-painted designs — and one that is nabbing the spotlight for Fall ’15 thanks to a fresh and modern makeover. Think moody botanicals digitally printed on leather handbags, floral rain/sneaker boot hybrids and a convertible neoprene backpack with an embossed woven pattern, Elliott Lucca’s athleisure play and a nod to its DNA.
The updated look is carried into the rest of the collection, by way of versatile clutches, drawstring hobo bags and soft shoulder bags with drapey soft leathers. “It’s really about texture,” Donatiello said, noting that a collection of felt handbags trimmed with Nappa leather merchandises well with the brand’s neoprene and other artisan stories. “It is very on trend. We see lots of textures going into the fall season.”
In footwear, brand highlights span flat riding boots, stacked high heel booties and the introduction of water-resistant booties, which adds functionality to the line. Updated takes on the day-to-night Catalina pump that Donatiello described as “ageless” makes a strong statement, as well. “No one can reinvent the wheel — a shoe is a shoe is a shoe, but its how we make it different each season,” he quipped.
That modernization was a decision that came down about a year ago, Donatiello said, to incorporate a more contemporary feel using wovens as details. Historically, Donatiello said the brand attracted the 40- to 55-year-old customer, someone who was established in the workforce and dressed more traditional. “Now we have customers who are 25, a young professional woman who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend and is looking for a bag that has a lot of value and can be work in many situations,” he said.
Of this consumer, Donatiello said she is educated, style aware and knows the better market. “We are learning more about out this new customer everyday. She’s very trend-aware and understands what’s happening. She reads blogs and magazines, but she sets her own style rules. She’s not a follower, or someone just snapping up designer bags. She mixes and matches and cannot be classified. She’s really looking for something stylish and that she can make her own.”
The company’s motto is “effortless everyday” and it is a slogan that women of all ages can get behind — especially one shopping the department stores and privy to all of the major fashion footwear and handbag brands. To Elliott Lucca’s advantage, it shares retail space with a broad and trendy range of brands at the opening end of the bridge price point. (The fall line will retail for $89-$229.)
As Donatiello pointed out, “In a store like Nordstrom with a big contemporary business, we’re sitting with Rebecca Minkoff and Marc by Marc Jacobs.” And on Zappos, the brand competes with everyone, which is why he said the brand has made big efforts at a grassroots level to connect with consumers on social media and through “old school” in-store events. For example, the company has worked with Lord & Taylor to ensure that both their footwear and handbag sales staff are aware of Elliott Lucca’s offerings in both categories, to encourage cross selling.
In a footwear and handbag environment ruled by “power brands” like Michael Kors, Coach and Kate Spade — and incidentally fueled with mega sized marketing budgets — Donatiello said its an achievement to pick up the market share that Elliott Lucca has increasingly enjoyed in the last couple of seasons. Now the brand is even toying with the idea to add jewelry in the near future. “We just work harder to engage our consumer,” Donatiello added. “And it is very gratifying because we are doing it based on what we offer — the total package and still with our brand DNA.”