We're a year old today! It is hard to believe that we launched F E R A L online just one year ago. SO MUCH has happened in the last year, it is a bit mind blowing for our independent new brand. As it was a real foundational year of growth and learning, it feels more like year zero than year one, and we're excited to take everything we've learned and roll it into 2019.
F E R A L represents a return to a natural state, a mindful approach to luxury leathergoods and a respect for and commitment to investing in US communities. We believe in people over profits, and invest a portion of every sale in charities that support some of the most vulnerable people in our population. It may not be the road to overnight financial success, but you know what? At the end of every day, we can say we're proud of what we're doing, and that we did our best to be a part of the change we want to see in the world. That's enough for us. And we make a damn good handbag too. So, there's that.
So what happened in our first year? What did we learn? What would we do differently? We're taking this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the last 365, and mindfully chart the next chapter for our brand. In our first year, we collaborated with some of our favorite people, influencers & stylists. There is an amazing community of grounded, humble and insanely brilliant creatives that truly wants to support emerging brands - you just have to be brave enough to reach out and connect. And keep reaching out (but not being annoying!) as they are all getting hit up by everyone who is trying to leverage their influence. Be yourself, be authentic and amazingly, you will get through. At least we have found this to be true!
This past spring, we launched 5 signature leather styles online, partnering with local PNW photographers and models to share our elevated urban vibe with the world. The result? Women from all over the world found us, shared our work with friends, each one becoming not only a customer, but a validating part of our story. In a perfect world, we'd know what the hell we're doing online, but we're learning. If you have been on our sporadic and ill formatted email marketing list - please don't unsubscribe. We promise to get our act together. Pinky swear.
Shortly after the online launch, a buzz about F E R A L started slowly, building each month in Seattle, until we'd be out and about and have people come up to us and say "oh, I saw F E R A L online I had been wanting to see it in real life. Wow, the bags are even more gorgeous in person." Maybe it's the yellow. Hard to resist?
We had three west coast stores ask to carry the bags fairly early on. We have a few more on the hook and are hopeful to be in even more spaces in 2019. We're grateful for our stockists, as their passion for our brand is transferred seamlessly onto their stylish clientele.
Starting last summer, we did pop ups. So many pop ups. We’ve now got packing the car down pat and can set up a 2 table spread to rival a Barney's window in 15 minutes. The more pop up's and shopping events we attended, the more people seemed to be familiar with our line and eager to try on each style, stroke the leather and admire the details in person. Originally, we had planned on the website being our main driver of sales, but we quickly learned the importance of people being able to have a visceral shopping experience and to speak to us in person. Especially for a new, virtually unknown brand, this gave us a chance to get to know local shop owners, leverage our creative community and get into some seriously Instagram worthy spaces. Women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and aesthetics came out to try on our backpack, our belt bags and ogle the beaded styles while admiringly taking selfies.
Being a designer that prefers to stay behind the scenes, it took a lot of effort to do these events. I have always wanted F E R A L to be about more than myself, I see myself as the medium through which this brand comes to life, but I do not want to be the face of the brand by any means. My favorite part of these events is overhearing women talk about the bags as they experience them for the first time, without prompt or sales pitch, just giving honest feedback and admiring them as a passerby. Often I've seen an individual being drawn across the room as if by some magnetized force to a specific style - arms outstretched to grasp a particular bag - eyes glistening - as they find "the one" and happily slip it on. That's basically like a handbag romance novel right there, but I have seen it happen on more than one occasion. Being someone who is bona fide obsessed with leathergoods, I get it. Nothing brings me joy like giving such joy to others through my work. Like I have given them a tremendous gift by designing a bag they can buy and will love so much.
Last Fall we entered a big design competition with Gray Magazine. We didn't win. We didn't even make it as a finalist. But you know what? We connected with the editors, and got written up (with a 1/2-page glossy color spread) as one of their top picks for emergent design in the PNW in issue No 49. Yeah, that is pretty insane. Gray is one of the aesthetic guardians of our region, filled with a curated assortment of lust worthy design firms. Needless to say, to be in print with them is a dream come true. Check that off the bucket list.
We ran a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last holiday season. It was really fun doing a brand video with local creatives and shooting in the Seattle sunshine as the cornerstone of our campaign. Having to hear my voice talk about the brand for 3 minutes was a bit painful, but next time I will hire that part out. No need to wear out my digital welcome in your lives too soon.
We've got a whole other blog post and a lot of online content out there about the crowdfunding experience already so we won't bore you BUT the success of our campaign allowed us to finally move production of our collection from LA to NYC. That's right. F E R A L just hopped coasts and is coming for the big apple next. What does this mean for us? New colors for one. We didn't plan on launching in all black, it was a decision that came down to economics and factory minimums. Thanks to all the generous humans that backed us, we will be producing our wildly popular No. 4 Phone Sling in a range of yummy colors and exciting materials that will finally push you all over the edge and eager to wear a fanny pack again. As if you needed any further persuasion ;).
What's next? Well, judging by the growing bump I am sporting, looks like F E R A L is going to have its second employee this April. Hope he is ready to work, because our hand beaded bags are taking off and we can always use more nimble fingers.
Year One is already looking bright. Thanks for joining us on our mission to change the world, one beautiful handbag at a time.
Shannon from F E R A L
In honor of this exciting milestone, use promo code YEARZERO for $50 off any purchase, good through Feb 28th.