Conversation with: Cambridge Satchel Founder Julie Deane
September 19, 2013
In light of the upcoming visit of The Cambridge Satchel Company’s founder, Julie Deane, to our Georgetown CUSP store, we thought, what better way to celebrate this quintessential British handbag than to talk to Deane herself? The Cambridge Satchel, a favorite among it girls like Alexa Chung and Elle Fanning continues to re-invent itself in trendy colors, sizes and patterns, and we couldn’t be more pleased about this British invasion into our CUSP grounds.
NM: How did you decide to recreate the traditional leather satchel?
JD: The Cambridge Satchel Company was founded in 2008 at my kitchen table just outside Cambridge with a budget of just £600 – approximately $950 – and the duration of the school summer holidays. I had always had a satchel when I was at school and I had been looking for one for my two children (Emily and Max) for a while but couldn’t find one anywhere.
NM: What would you say is the real charm of a Cambridge Satchel?
JD: I think a satchel is a classic design staple, not only do we offer the traditional colours and sizes that you would expect from a classic school satchel, we have kept the design fresh by adding many modern twists: the fluoro colours which have become synonymous with NYFW, collaborations with amazing international designers such as Comme des Garçons, Chris Benz and Christopher Shannon, all of which have helped us raise our profile on an international scale, whilst also ensuring that our satchels are just at home in the classroom as they are on the catwalk.
NM: Who is the girl that carries a Cambridge Satchel?
JD: The great thing about a Cambridge Satchel is that we have a satchel for everyone. They have been carried by everyone – from celebrities such as Alexa Chung and Zooey Deschanel, fashion editors and fashion bloggers… they’ve even featured in hit US TV shows such as Girls and The Good Wife. Our bags are equally at home with the men! They have been spotted on some of the more gorgeous men at Milan Mens’ Fashion Week and celebrities globally.
NM: How important is it that all satchels are handmade and manufactured in the UK?
JD: The design of a satchel is quintessentially British and we wouldn’t think of manufacturing our satchels anywhere but the UK. We have a real connection to the product and I think if we outsourced manufacturing overseas, this connection would be lost. We have our own factory, based just outside Leicester, where we employ more than 50 skilled men and women. We see our bags being cut and sewn, know the people who make them, these aren’t just units of whatever bought from the cheapest factory where the workers might not be treated well.
NM: What are you most excited to see when you come to America this fall?
JD: I lived and worked in the US after graduating from the University of Cambridge so I always love coming back. We’re really looking forward to visiting DC. This will be our first in-store event with CUSP and we are really looking forward to meeting the team and our lovely US customers. My husband is American and my children have dual nationality so doing well in the US is important to me.
NM: How different are your American fans from the British clients?
Not that different but I think the British customer is more likely to know the story behind our brand and to engage and feel inspired by it. £600 and a vision to make life better for my family – that’s something people can relate to, and when they see it can be done it will hopefully encourage others to start their own business and give it a go. Cambridge Satchel was founded just under five years ago – now we have customers in over 120 countries, we have appeared in fashion magazines worldwide – £600, never borrowed and so what’s stopping people from trying. It’s never been a better time to start a business; I’d argue that point with anyone.
NM: How do you keep the Cambridge Satchel fresh and renewed every season?
JD: There is inspiration everywhere, from the beauty of Italian Cinque Terre towns (inspiration behind our latest Men’s Collection) to a summer day on the river in Cambridge and the Orchard Tea Rooms – what better inspiration for a summer palette?
Shop The Cambridge Satchel Company bags here and meet Julie Deane at Cusp Georgetown on September 19 at 4:30pm!