Fashion

Ladies Who Launch: Sara Dooleweerdt and Trine Marie Holm of aagé Handbags

The power of a really good handbag is that it makes you feel like you have your life together. I could be wearing shower flip flops and a burlap sack, but with a sleek, structured bag on my shoulder, I’m invincible. Or at least, I have the stuff I need. The founders of aagé bags found the same when they embarked on their quest to create the perfect crossbody bag in 2016.

The two first met in 2013; Trine Marie Holm was one of the founders of Mark Tan, now called MKDT Studio, the acclaimed Danish fashion brand, and Sara Dooleweerdt was brought in to focus on sales. “We had a wonderful time working on the brand together, but we both started thinking about the next step, and we realized we wanted to branch out a bit from fashion and step away from the seasonal production schedule,” Trine explains. Educated as a clothing designer, she knew that she wanted to continue creating fashion items, but found that she was not enjoying the fast, seasonal pace of fashion. “I have always been fascinated by items that last and that people can invest in: shoes, bags, and coats, for example. I settled on bags, because I was looking for the perfect bag myself. So was Sara. We decided to create it ourselves,” she says.

 

 

With the idea firmly in place, Sara and Trine began taking steps to launch the brand at the start of 2016. They started by asking women – lots of them – what they wanted from a handbag. “We held focus groups because wanted to be sure we were on the right track,” Sara explains. “We asked women to come and bring their own favorite bags so that we could go over the characteristics that made them useful, beautiful, or whatever,” she says. Their biggest takeaway?

“People agreed that a bag should suitable for many different occasions – day to night – and be able to fit a water bottle and a book,” Trine laughs.

And that’s just what their first bag, the crossbody, does. It’s small and easy to use for every day, yet big enough to fit the essentials and a bit more. It’s not a computer bag, but it’ll be your go-to bag for evening and weekends. The triangular shape makes it seem compact, while the thick strap and curved angles give it a sculptural silhouette.

 

aagé’s second bag, the tote, is made to fit a laptop, as well as the ever-present book and water bottle; it’s the ideal work bag. aagé is currently working on additional bags. “We’d like to grow slowly and sustainably. Our goal is to fill out the collection with all the bags you need in your life: day bag, work bag, evening bag, and so on. We don’t think you need so many bags, but a few different kinds are useful!” Trine says.

All of their designs are tested ensure that they could withstand daily use, including tossing them in bike baskets. “In Copenhagen, your bag has to fit in your bike basket,” Sara laughs, “so our tote bag was designed specifically so that it would fit in a typical bike basket, and the edges of the bags were made so that they wouldn’t get damaged when you push your bag down into the basket.”

Trine adds, “as a designer, I enjoy the refining process, so each time we restock the bags, we make little changes here and there.”

 

In addition to making items that last and have a timeless aesthetic, aagé is working to be as ethical and sustainable as possible. “We work with leather, Trine explains, “that comes from Italian Dani Sustainable Leather. We chose to work with Dani because they are a world-leading producer with a research-based approach to minimizing their environmental impact. Our hides are sourced only from the EU, where leather is by law only a byproduct of the meat industry and animal welfare is prioritized. From treatment of the hides to bag assembly, everything is made in northern Italy. This reduces transport distance and makes it possible to maintain personal contact with all our partners.”

“It’s really been a journey for us,” Sara continues, sharing their biggest challenge. “We put a lot of effort and money into the first rounds of prototypes and to establish a good relationship with our previous manufacturer in Milan. We had decided to launch aagé in February 2017. But when our sales samples arrived just few weeks before deadline, it was a catastrophe. The quality was just not what we wanted. Essentially, we had not found the right partner in manufacturing – something we had felt in our hearts but not paid attention to – and needed to start all over.”

 

Sara takes a beat before going on, “it was a disaster for us financially, and it took six months to raise the money again, plus a major journey across Italy to find the right manufacturer. Luckily we found Massi and Vansessa, brother and sister who run a family factory in Florence. They are the perfect match. They translate our bag designs into the highest quality/perfection of leather bags. We haven’t looked back since finding them! For us, perseverance has been key because things don’t always go the way you expect. That’s probably true for most people starting businesses. Now we always follow our gut.”

Sara and Trine’s commitment to and believe in their product is event in the way they talk about it, and in the products themselves. aagé makes fewer things, better. Their philosophy is produce functional items that make your day easier and more beautiful, every day.

Find out more about aagé bags.

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