If you are creative and harbour love for fashion, starting a handbag company may be a fulfilling and rewarding business opportunity. The mainstream handbag industry is a fickle business. Styles and trends change from year to year and colours, textures and materials vary from season to season. For example, large leather hobo bags may in be the in trend one year, but out the next when tiny hand-held clutches are in. It is possible to participate in the handbag industry without going mainstream. Some smaller handbag businesses design and sew their own bags and offer them for sale at craft shows or on their own e-commerce websites. There is no right or wrong way to break into this industry. You must choose the path that works best with your personality and budget.
Obtain start-up capital for your handbag business. Starting a mainstream handbag company will cost you approximately £32,500 as of 2010. If you do not have that kind of cash in your savings account, apply for a business loan from a bank. Most banks require a business owner to have acceptable credit and a detailed business plan before they will extend business loans and lines of credit. For more information on business plans and loans, visit the Small Business Administration's website (see link provided in the Resources section below). Even if you will be designing and creating your own line of bags by hand, you will need start-up capital for fabric/materials, sewing equipment, hardware and other business costs such as advertising.
Design your handbag line. You can accomplish this by sketching your designs on unlined paper or hiring a sketch artist to help you bring your vision to life. Your designs should be as detailed as possible. You may choose to design different bags for different seasons, or you can start your line with one or two bag designs and construct them with different materials for each season.
Create or have patterns made from your handbag sketches. You will need to have a pattern made anytime you want to create more then one non-unique handbag. A pattern allows for uniformity in size and shape. Most handbags consist of four or more unique pattern pieces: front/back, sides, bottom and handles. If you have pattern drafting experience or are willing to learn through trial and error, you can construct your own patterns using pattern paper. If you plan on having a manufacturer create your bags, you must have a professional pattern maker create your patterns. Most manufacturers will not accept homemade patterns that are not drafted according to industry specifications.
Choose materials for your handbags. You may choose to use darker leather or canvas for winter and fall bags. Lighter or more vibrant colours tend to be popular in the spring and summer seasons. Additionally, consider your target clientele when making this decision. For example, if are you selling evening or bridal bags, you may opt to construct your bag line from silk or organza. Make sure that your fabric distributor or store has enough fabric in stock to complete your line.
Choose a handbag manufacturer and have samples made. Manufacturers can be found around the world from the United States to China and everywhere in between. If you are just starting out in the fashion business, you may want to stick with a domestic manufacturer due to language barriers, shipping costs and process methods. A list of New York-based handbag manufacturers is located in the Resources section. Your manufacturer will create sample handbags based on your patterns, drawings and specifications. If you are creating a handmade line, you won't need a manufacturer because you will make the bags.
Advertise and sell your bag line. Advertise your wares at handbag trade shows and/or on your own website. The benefit of attending trade shows is that many buyers for department stores and fashion boutiques attend and are actively searching for new merchandise to carry in their stores. The downside is the cost. As of 2010, the average trade show can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds or dollars for a table.