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Julie Deane of Cambridge Satchel Company on Handbag Designer 101 Podcast Every Tuesday

Updated: Dec 21, 2023




Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:00

Hi and welcome to the Handbag Designer 101 podcast with your host, emily Blumenthal, handbag designer expert and handbag fairy godmother, where we cover everything about handbags, from making, marketing, designing and talking to handbag designers and industry experts about what it takes to make a successful handbag. Welcome Julie Dean of the Cambridge Statue Company, founder, creator, give birth or tour CBE all the way from Quinn's country in the United Kingdom. Welcome, Julie. Thank you so much for joining us.

Julie Deane

Guest

00:41

Thank you so much for inviting me along.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:44

As I was saying before, you commented on a post mine on LinkedIn, and that's just a welcome, that's an invitation for us to be best friends forever, absolutely so, bye. So you had mentioned that someone is collecting coins from your garden today.

Julie Deane

Guest

01:00

Absolutely so. I live just outside. Well, it's Cambridge, it's one of the little villages around Cambridge. So you still stayed there. Huh, I split my time between here and the west coast of Wales, which is where I'm from originally.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

01:18

No accent. How'd you lose the accent?

Julie Deane

Guest

01:21

Oh well, I've been in Cambridge for such a long time, I think, but the minute I go over the bridge it comes back. So it's a bit of a funny one. But in Cambridge I have a very, very old house and there's a quince tree in the garden.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

01:36

What's a quince for people who don't know?

Julie Deane

Guest

01:38

Quince is. These fruit look like a cross between a pear and an apple Got it. They are really big and they are rock hard and really heavy and one fell on one of my dog's heads two years ago and completely stunned him for a while. But then they've never really caught on as a fruit to eat or do very much with, except there is a small group in my village Facebook gardening group that likes to come and pick the quince every year.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:12

Listen, we have a Facebook group in the building I live, but there's actually two, because the two admins broke up and they blocked each other, so now we have two groups. It's kind of funny but sad at the same time. You have to double post. You have to double post. It's very time consuming. I want to ask you something, because there's so much on earth here. Do you get bored of telling a story? Is it old for you at this point?

Julie Deane

Guest

02:40

No, no, it's not for me, because I don't know. It's still so vivid. Even the very beginning in many ways feels like just yesterday.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:50

I get that. I so, so get that. Like you know, I know your mom, freda Freda. Freda Freda was an integral part of the beginning and it sounds like she was part of also minding you, helping you with your kids, so had that too. So when I started my handbag offline, my mom was driving me back and forth to JFK to pick up my shipments and I was opening the boxes with her and only to get her facial expression of do you really want to do this? Because this is not good. So you know it's the passive aggressive I'm here to support, but are you sure this is what we're doing?

Julie Deane

Guest

03:26

Yeah, and the things that you know my mom would say sometimes if somebody came for an interview and I'd maybe finishing off some call or something and I'd look at, and if I saw the journalist speaking to my mother, my heart would sink and think, oh my gosh, what is she saying? Oh, no, no, this is awful. I remember there was a magazine came in and they said and how, what can you tell us about your daughter? What can you say about your daughter and my mom? Of all the things that I would have loved her to have said, she said she's not stupid.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

04:03

Yeah, yeah, that's it. Yeah yeah, she was on payroll with you. You should have like had an HR chat with her about that. After, like, here's the do's and don'ts of what we say. Don't get me, that's her off with the me.

Julie Deane

Guest

04:16

My gosh. What on earth she's not stupid. That's it Could be. On my gravestone here lies Julie Dean. She wasn't stupid, Mama.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

04:23

Yes, come, yeah, oh, my God. Well, I think I've read every interview you've ever had and, as I was saying, I believe there are more people like you. I would throw me into the conversation, but I never reached the level of success. Because you found a hole in the market and was able to capitalize on it, and I believe you know creating something it also comes down to timing, right timing and hustle. So you found something at the right place at the right time and had the hustle and need and therefore said you know, it's so interesting when we're put into these positions because we really even the most risk averse people. When you're in it, you don't even see what the downside is. No, like, it's like okay, this is what I'm doing the act.

Julie Deane

Guest

05:07

Yeah, yeah, that's all right and this is might be quite sad, but I honestly love the satchel. It is like my, it's spectacular, it is my favorite bag ever, because I'm not a tremendously fussy person, right, but what a practical person. And so I don't want to be messing around looking for goodness there's how many pockets or zips, or you know. I just can't be doing with it. And I was astounded when I couldn't find a traditional school satchel for my children, because there were all these bags that had zips, that would fall apart or well made or they look really grungy.

05:47

And I had my satchel from the moment I started secondary school, so about you know, 10, 11, right up until the end of university, and it just always was there. It would stand up and I could fish things out of it. It didn't sort of disgorge its contents all over the floor, you know it was. It was just always something I didn't have to think about. So with Emily and Max, I just thought of course you're going to want to have a satchel, and it didn't occur to me for a minute that I wouldn't be able to just find one, right, of course Really easily, because it's traditional British school bag and they were and it's traditional British school, yes, very, very traditional and I was really shocked and sort of horrified when, then, I couldn't find one.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

06:36

So you know you said a lot of interesting things. Number one it stood up. Now we know from the do's and don'ts of handbags and merchandising that unless the bag stands it will not be successful. Number one. Number two if you had the same bag the standing, the test of time, it was a good solid cow leather, yeah, and it was a stodgy color and it had the flap with the little really buckled doodas and it could stand the test of time, much like the origin of what coach was that? They use baseball mitt leather back then, yeah, and not so much now because everything has to move a lot quicker. But the fact is I know that this was born out of necessity, for twofold One, you couldn't find it and two, you wanted to put your kids into public school, which we call private school here. Yes, that's right.

Julie Deane

Guest

07:24

That's right. I hadn't had this need of oh my gosh, how am I going to make school fees, how am I going to pay for my children's education? If I didn't have that pressing, pressing need, then maybe I would never have done this, you know. But it was literally a list of what can I do to make enough money to make sure my children get a good education, because education is just so important. You know, it's freedom. It's been so important for me and that is the gift that I wanted most of all to give to them.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

08:00

My grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor, always used to say education is the lightest package you'll ever have to carry, because you know she was forced to work at 15. So it was. You know obviously different times and you know you don't appreciate that obviously when you're a child. But having a couple degrees here and there, you're like, oh yeah, everybody needs to keep learning. So I understand. Yeah, I'm trying to make strong for your comments.

Julie Deane

Guest

08:24

There are different ways of learning too, because when I think of all the things I learned during the whole process of founding and growing and running Cambridge Satchel, you know I had to teach myself so many things. Yeah, Goodness for YouTube. And goodness, thank goodness you know even things like how to use these machines. When you put the nylon strapping around boxes, you know, with a little metal clamp on them I could buy the machine, the gizmo, that sort of doesn't put the staples on them, but how do you use the blinking thing? Right, Right, you know, but thank goodness you know there's a how to video for just about everything.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

09:01

There is now. When I started, there wasn't any videos, so it was like you'd get a box and you'd be like, well, what the hell am I supposed to do now? Yeah, so now you were married at the time, I was, yeah, so I find this interesting and if you don't want to speak about that, you know, I totally understand. But was it a pushback? And what was the response internally Because I know a lot of people when they start something like this of which they have zero experience and or knowledge an interesting dialogue internally in terms of, okay, why are you doing this? Okay, I want to do this. Hey, for school fees, does your child really even need to go to this precious school? And where are you getting the money from to start this? Like, so, obviously you have to do everything yourself, even within this partnership.

Julie Deane

Guest

09:49

And I think that it was made a lot easier for me because I started getting such a with 600 pounds, so about $700. Right which I had organized a conference and been paid 600 pounds for it and that was it?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

10:04

That was your seed money.

Julie Deane

Guest

10:05

Seed money is, yeah, bigging it a little bit, but, yes, it was. It was a tiny seed, yes, and so that was, you know, the money that I had to gamble on this big dream. Because, yes, the outcome was, let's get Emily Maxx into a great school, but then it sort of becomes this huge challenge Just golly, I can do something that is going to be amazing. What if this worked? What if? Because my dad was self-employed, you know, and he had his own business, and I think that after I had stopped full-time work to be at home for a long time with Emily and Maxx, and then it was suddenly this thing of, oh, maybe I don't have to work out how to get back into a traditional workforce.

10:53

Yeah, because if I try to do this, I can make it work better around the children, you know, I can be there for school holidays, I can do school drop-offs and pickups and I can be trying out something amazing, which means that I get to feel like I'm evolving as well, because they were six and eight when I started Cambridge Satchel and I would see, with every day, they would be learning things. You know, they'd be learning very early on. You've got the books, you're trying to teach them and help them learn to read. And then they're going to school and they're learning how to do lots of different things and it's just wonderful watching them learn and grow and become their little people.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

11:39

Well, you were an early adopter from a work-from-home mom. Yes, exactly yes, because you were always working. Yes, but you were with them. Yes, so exactly.

Julie Deane

Guest

11:53

And then it suddenly starts as they become that bit more independent and start enjoying spending time with people their own age and doing their own sort of things. Then suddenly there's this horror of, you know, being at home with the children was fun when it was being at home with the children, but if the children are actually doing these other things now, I'm still at home. What am I going to do? That's going to keep my mind active. That makes me feel that I'm not just left standing while.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

12:29

I'm, I have a sense of purpose, exactly yeah.

Julie Deane

Guest

12:33

And so suddenly, the prospect of I'm going to start a business, well, that's exciting, it's really exciting.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

12:42

Well, again, it's so fascinating. So you came up. You saw this hole in the market, not even realizing that it was perceived as from even a marketing term, a hole in the market right, like what's missing. Defining all that? Because everything you've done from a marketing angle was done right. You found something that was needed. It satisfied a need and a want. You couldn't find it. You started looking around and then you found this one shop and you stocked them for them to share their manufacturer, and that is actually in my book. I speak about that that it's almost like babysitters that when you find a good babysitter, you don't share their name or information. So you have to really come up with something clever to get people to share who their source is.

Julie Deane

Guest

13:30

Yeah.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

13:31

And then you show up at said source's door saying we have to figure this out right now.

Julie Deane

Guest

13:34

Yeah, and you know, yes, that shop. Let me get rid of all of those that are things appearing on my screen? Right, yes, and was this finding somewhere that somehow had managed to find real, authentic school satchels? Because when I started looking for manufacturers a difference between handmade and artisan? Well, 100%. And the minute somebody describes themselves as artisan I soon discovered that market was going to be way too expensive for me. Right, for all the new sellers, that are going to happen, yes, and they're never going to be able to make them in bulk. No, I'm never going to be able to sell to all of the school children in Britain because there's some man in his artisan shed doing circles on things. Yes, and making a bag every two weeks? Correct, that would never, and that hadn't occurred to me before I went on the hunt for a manufacturer.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

14:43

Yeah, it's a learning curve, because you find someone who can finally make it, yeah, and then you go and you get orders against it. And then you realize, oh my God, it will be at least six months before I get my production from said person. And then you go and bother them and then, because you're pissing them off, they want no part. Like, I'm going to put you at the bottom of the list because you're really irritating me.

Julie Deane

Guest

15:06

Yes, Although in my case it worked the other way round. I think that I had nagging down to such a fine art, well done, that's what I did. But he was willing to just make me a batch of these things because he was sure, so sure, that they're away, that there's no market for it. Right? And it would literally like if I make you six of these things, will you just leave me alone? Yes, yes, I will, yes, I will. And it catapulted me to the front of his queue because he was so certain that nobody wanted these things because his factory in the north in the UK, in Hulb, they used to make satchels back in the 1970s, yeah, when you know, everybody had them.

15:56

And if you look at the sort of Narnia films and all of those, they were satchels. The company used to make those then and he said, no, nobody wants them now, they're not on trend. I think you're wrong. I think you're wrong. And he said, look, I'll make you these six, but you have to just go away and stop pestering me. And it's like, yeah, but if this works and I'm right, then I could be your best customer ever. And he was so certain that it wasn't going to work. He said yes, yes, well, then you can come back to me, which was great, because then I could Thank God, I could hear him say goodness, but yes, he would literally do anything just to make me stop.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

16:34

Well, I'm sure we talk about this that when you come in to speak to a manufacturer, the more green you are, the less they want to talk to you and the more they'll charge you. Right, it's that like you don't know what you're doing, extra cost. You don't understand construction or how a bag is, the anatomy of a handbag, the silhouettes, all you knew, you know, like it's a satchel. And here he saw this mom with a big dream and a bag and it's like, yeah, I don't know you should, just this is cute, good for you.

Julie Deane

Guest

17:07

I think I was really, really fortunate that my first manufacturer was absolute salt of the earth, one of the most men ever, you know, and I kept in touch right the way along and he came to shop openings and everything and just the most. You must have kept him in business. Honestly, I put so much his way that he couldn't keep up. And then, you know, I had to find a second, and then a third, and it sort of went that way and those first three manufacturers were the most decent, honest men that you could ever come across.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

17:44

Was he insulted that you had to go get another or he knew you needed to?

Julie Deane

Guest

17:48

No, because I said to him look, can you please? Just, I need way, way more, way, way more. Because he could make up to 250 bags a week and in the beginning I thought that would be more than anybody would ever need. I would never need more than 250 a week. And then it was growing and I really needed, you know, a lot more than that. And so I said look, can you please just take on more people? And there was a point at which I think, because of labor laws and the way that the factories are set up in the UK, there's a point at which you decide you're either stepping up it is a big step up, yeah, yeah, yeah.

18:33

And for each of the three first manufacturers, it always happened around the 200 to 250 bags a week. That was the limit. After that, they needed a special first aid person and they needed a special Insurance and overhead. And it changed. You know, everything changed. And so I tried to get him to take on more people and to expand and to grow. But he was very, very honest and just said look, at my stage in life, I've seen stressful times. I don't want to expand the factory Amazing. So it was like well, okay, if I always give you enough to keep you entirely busy. Would you mind then, if the excess I take to somebody else? And so he said no, no, and he helped me find another person to take the next layer. That's amazing, yeah.

19:29

And then they spoke to each other often to make sure that things like the rivets were always the same how lucky Came from the same place, and I think some of that I hope I'm not flattering myself by saying that some of that was just because of the transparency of you. I spoke to them with right, and it was always I have to do the right thing by Alec, because he was the first one. He great me started, so he gets the first 250 after that. This is what I need. And then it happened again. You know that I was now on 500 bags a week. It wasn't enough. We needed to find another one, and I found a very, very colorful character based in Norfolk, a fantastic man who sadly passed away about seven or eight years ago, and I said, look, this is the way it works.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

20:20

This is how we are doing business.

Julie Deane

Guest

20:22

This is how it works, you know, and it just means that if one of you then a short of rivets or there's a problem, you haven't got enough thread of a particular color, you can form a sort of like a little alliance going. Then you can talk to each other and you can complain about me or whatever, do your own thing, and they got on really well and that was absolutely fantastic with those three. That is the dream that you find people like that, amazing. But I only now, looking back on it, realize how lucky I was to find that.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

20:59

Yeah, that's touched by, it, Touched by something. I have a couple of questions. So one how did you go about selling? Were you selling from your kitchen? Were you going to mom's door to door? Were you doing school fairs or were you like, okay, I'm going to start going to local boutiques? And how, within this journey because we had more to cover did you say the production must stay in England? How did you? Let's tackle the first one.

Julie Deane

Guest

21:30

To me, it was always important that production stayed in the UK, in Britain. It wasn't in England because I had two manufacturers in England or one in Scotland, but it was all British and that made it easy for me because I could you put a patrol there, turn them up without a time difference. We all spoke the same language and if things really came to a crunch point, I could always get in my car and drive and be there, you know that, same day or the next morning. It made things very, very simple for me, I think, and also just things like when I was paying them. We're all being paid in pounds. You know. There was no currency issues, there were no customs declarations. That was all very easy. The selling I had read a book Gorilla Marketing.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

22:19

I have it up here.

Julie Deane

Guest

22:22

So it's great, I liked it. And in there it sort of said you have to do your marketing in different ways.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

22:30

Can be a media gorilla marketing yeah you really have two different ways.

Julie Deane

Guest

22:35

And so I thought, oh, I've got to sort of approach that I'd made these funny little flyers out of wood and then, you know, you get the guillotine, and so that I'd like to do all of these flyers myself. And then I found loads of free directories, because I needed to be mentioned in lots of places because otherwise, you know, google doesn't see you. So this is the vintage SEO Vintage vintage.

22:59

SEO? Yeah, absolutely Well, and then you never link outside. So it's like a cul-de-sac, you know Right, you just always try to get somebody to mention you or listed on anything, but you never link out. Right, because virtually everybody's website was better than mine, so I didn't want anybody legal my website, right?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

23:19

I remember. I remember the vintage Cambridge Statue company's website because I kept notes. My template to my book was, like me, I was teaching a class on how to launch a handbag line when you're not trained in design prior to me even having a real business. Because they found me talking about it and some you know one of those organizations that have like learned how to make a handbag line. I mean I was in the same booklet. It was called the Learning Annex, and they'd have those bins on the street that you could get outside, you know your pharmacies and so forth. I mean I was in one on the same covers, donald Trump, where it was learned how to sell real estate. I mean that's how old school were going and they would take the handbag designer flavor of the week. But because I was keeping notes, I had a syllabus, I had resources, I had recommendations, I had designers to follow and you were one of them.

Julie Deane

Guest

24:13

So Kelly, my very first website. When you have 600 pounds as your seed fund, yes, you don't really have much of that to spend on a web designer, right, you know? And this was 2008. Yeah, and so I thought I'm just going to have to teach myself. How hard can it be? You know, this is the same as that Usually comes before some disaster. But, right, how hard can it be, you know, like this. And so I took a free Microsoft course, free online course, over a couple of nights, and then came up with this website. That was the very first one, oh my God. And you put this in a PayPal and you'd have to highlight all of the code for a button and then you'd embed the code and each color.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

25:02

each color was its own skew. That's right.

Julie Deane

Guest

25:05

And then you've got the button, but the button somehow don't want to align on the website. Yeah, so the kind of thing. So, yeah, I went through all of that. But when you do go through all of that, you have such an understanding of your business, of every part of the business.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

25:22

Yeah, it's so interesting because most people now are so quick to outsource I need a salesperson, I need a publicist, I need a designer. It's like no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to learn how to make everything from start to finish. Even if you do it poorly, you need to know. So when you hire people, you know what they're doing wrong, even from a salesperson, and you're like oh well, did you hit these stores? No, why not I go in them, I'm still doing it. Did you reach out to these editors? No, well, I know they cover stories about female founders, handbag, colored bags, like why aren't you so? And then you end up doing all that heavy lifting yourself anyway.

Julie Deane

Guest

26:05

Yeah, exactly, and when you have people join you it's very different. You know they're on their own career path, right, whereas for me this was just something I absolutely lived and breathed and loved and thought about constantly. I wasn't thinking how long do I need to stay here before moving to my next bigger job and then moving to? So I wasn't out to make a name for myself in web design, I was just telling these bags, you know, and it was like, ok, this seems to be working. I'll sort of move on and try to look at something else. But that is the thing when you learn to do every aspect of it yourself.

26:46

I remember, you know, because the bags, I wanted people's initials on the bags, because there's small little card holder at the front Right when you can find. Children sometimes used to put their names in the card holder at the front Right and then I think, as a mom, I don't want my children's names to be on the bag. That's visible from. You know what if some creepy person says, oh, hello, emily, because they can read it on the front of their bag Exactly? Don't need that, but I want a way to tell the bags apart. Let's have initials embossed on them. That would be nice. And the first embossing machine, oh God, with a grant. And the person came over from Germany as a German machine. He didn't speak very good English, which is very unusual because, you know, for Germans forget it, they also, people can speak English.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

27:38

They're very organized, you know, just by anybody they're fantastic.

Julie Deane

Guest

27:42

He does English, I speak no German, and so it was all done through sort of like here you do this, do that, you do this, you do this, and then you go no, no, no, it's all 999 or something like that. No, no, no, let's try something else. And then we'd all sit and have a biscuit and try again. You know, that's how I learned to do embossing from him, and I embossed all of the bags Personally. Yes, yeah, it was a really long time, and even after the New York Fashion Week times and the Google times, when we would have a flood in at Christmas time, I never felt able to ask anybody to work between sort of 10 PM and 3 AM embossing bags. Right, so that was my slot, I would do that, and I would emboss between 10 and 3. So when people came into pack, they'd have a load ready to go Were you out of your home.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

28:38

by this point, that was yes.

Julie Deane

Guest

28:41

That was when we were in the first premises, and to anybody starting out I would say the less you tie yourself into long-term things, the better. Yeah, so my first premises was like I had to give a month's notice. If things went badly, I would give a month's notice, and so I knew, oh, that's the worst that can happen Is what it would cost me if I had to suddenly lose one month's rent Right Exactly.

29:15

Whereas often it can be a six month or a year's sort of yeah, you'll eat that money and lose it Exactly. Yeah, and the more you can avoid those kinds of things, I think, the more creative you're still allowing yourself to be, because the less scared you are of what you have to meet.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

29:36

How did you handle sales? I mean, the fascinating thing about your brand is that all the silhouettes they were not cousins, they were siblings of the same parents and typically when people develop it's like you could tell they're all related because there's a story. But yours were like straight up, same DNA. The brothers and the sisters were mating and giving birth to the same child, so, I know, in a different color. So how did you handle sales? Because I'm sure there were plenty of people in your ear saying you should do this and you should do that, and you're like, no, no, we're keeping the same bag, that's it. We can make it bigger, we can make it smaller, we could change the strap shorter, we can make it longer. So how did you handle door to door and D to C, as it's called now? But you were selling online, because back then retailers were a little offended if you sold more on your website, whereas now they want to make sure you can sell on your website before they even pick you up.

Julie Deane

Guest

30:35

Yeah, and I think that, well, first of all, because the bags the only thing defining the different bags was the size of the bag. That was a real issue. And it came to taking the photographs for the website. Oh my God, yeah, of course. I mean, I'm sure that we've all bought something online and then, when it comes, you think what is?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

30:59

that, oh small yeah, what's that?

Julie Deane

Guest

31:02

You bought something of like. I bought this thing of this weird it's a bit like a meat flavored yeast paste. Bovril that British people either.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

31:11

It wasn't. Was it like a sack?

Julie Deane

Guest

31:13

No man, it was just sort of like the size of a motorbike helmet. I was expecting it to be something different on the south, but it would be small. I hadn't like a year's supply. I had the industrial size, because I can't tell on the screen and that was an issue that I really faced. With the satchels, they all look exactly the same, right. So in a way that at the time seemed perfectly like the common sensical approach, I thought the answer to this is obvious. With every bag I'm going to take it photograph next to a banana, because everybody knows like the size of a banana and they can see how much bigger these bags are compared to this banana.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

31:58

I did not know you had a banana measurement. That's amazing. Well, I thought it was. I never saw that in any of your interviews. This is amazing. I'm glad I got a nugget that no one else did. Yeah.

Julie Deane

Guest

32:10

And it seemed like such an obvious workaround. I look back on it now and I think actually it's probably a bit insane, you know.

32:18

but it was a very good boy, I am going to have a banana, because that's how people can tell the difference in sizes, my God. And the things then like the strap sizes. I know now you're supposed to be so careful about how you refer to people, you know, and body size and so forth, all this kind of thing but it was sort of like there are two strap sizes there's one if you're five foot six or less. There's one if you're five foot six and a bit and more. That's it. You know. It's long and short, that's it. That's all it is.

32:59

Yeah, it just seemed a lot easier than when Cambridge such a grew and we had all the things that a proper handbag brand has. You know, you've got the merchandisers and the e-com team and all this kind of thing, and then suddenly it's like things become so much more complicated. We're frustrating for you to see, yes, massively frustrating. You know to have skew coats that I couldn't understand. I couldn't look at and understand because for the first five years it was all you. I just had a code. It was one, two, three like 11.

33:37

If it was an 11 inch bag and it was red and it had a shoulder strap, not backpack straps, it would be 11 RS Right, that's it Right. You'd leave the code. You'd think, yes, 11 inch red and a shoulder strap. And it was so easy. And then in later years there'd be things like oh no, well, we can't sell this straightaway because we haven't generated a skew code. And you think how can this be? You know right, what color is it? What size is it? Backpack straps or shoulder straps? And it is frustrating when a company scales and complexity just really really takes over.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

34:20

I mean, you had the gift in the curse of. You came up with something. People wanted it, lots and lots of people wanted it, and then, before you knew it you were dealing with, one of your factories started selling knockoffs, right, if I'm not mistaken. Well, you're correct. So you had to chase after them, which is every brand's fear. But I always pad that with no one's knocking you off unless you're successful. So don't lose any sleep on trying to tell a factory not to knock you off, because you need their help at the same time, whereas I had a very different.

Julie Deane

Guest

34:53

The one that was doing the knockoffs was the one that was doing the volume production, and you needed that. I really needed that, because it was the New York Times had called us the street style bag, the gift bag, the gift bag, and instantly I had 16,000 bags on back order. From what?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

35:19

From the website? No, but like how many were you producing before? At a comfortable level? Like, how did that moment give you you could manage production prior to that?

Julie Deane

Guest

35:28

Yes, I could manage it because I had my three manufacturers Right and I was making between 200 and 250 bags a week, so you had about 2000 bags coming out.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

35:42

This New York Times things hits and all of a sudden you have your tipping point moment. So you had to run and find a new factory quickly, exactly.

Julie Deane

Guest

35:49

Yes, a big factory that could really cope with volume While still keeping my three original manufacturers happy and busy and completely a capacity, and so even doing that was quite a bit more juggling than I ever anticipated, right, but then finding out that the new ones, the ones at scale within three months, were taking, I mean, a lot of the leather that I was buying I was buying the raw materials and knocking off the bags because they knew that there was this huge delay in backlog and people wanted them and whatever and I was making at the time. The hardest thing really at that time was I was also in my third Paris Fashion Week for Comde Garson, so I was making bags for Com and they were being made at this new place.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

36:49

Were you designing them as well? You were private labeling handbags for them, or it was a collaboration?

Julie Deane

Guest

36:54

No, it's a collaboration. I know that I can never work with somebody I don't trust, and this is the definition of Did you know, going in, that you didn't get the good feeling, but you had no choice.

37:09

No, I had the good feeling, and that's what's so awful. That is what is so awful. I had no clue of what they were planning or plotting or doing. It was one of their employees that phoned me and told you yes, and told me they said oh, are you the lady with the boxer dog that comes to the factory? Yes, I am. Oh, I can't sleep at night because this is what's happening. You know, when making copies of the bags, they've got a different name on them. They're being hidden a lock up across the road. I had no idea. And the other one, who was very, very canny she's so sharp was Sasha Wilkins Fantastic, she was blogging at that time. Liberty, london girl, I remember that, yes, and she had sent me a note and said oh, you sent me bags in the past that I've really loved. You changed your name. I said, no, I haven't changed my name. Wow, and they had sent her a bag. And so it was between Wow they were moving fast.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

38:12

If they were moving to influencers, they came to play. That wasn't like let's just make some money on the side.

Julie Deane

Guest

38:19

No, no, no. This was ring from, I think, day one, you know. Then, when I had the phone call from someone that actually worked at that factory, I thought it's not someone copying my designs of my bags, it's actually my manufacturer.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

38:35

Just out of curiosity, because I mean one of my licensing deals went, as your people call, titsa. I mean it was just horrendous that I got locked out of my own brand while I was still working with them for them. They still legally had the rights and I had to fight for the rights to get back. And I was newly married and I knew the toll that it took on my relationship. Because here I am, I define myself as this brand, this is my livelihood, this is all I know at this point. Whatever I knew is out the window. Now I have a partner, slash roommate who's seeing me lose my mind. I mean it takes its toll, like all of this, because I'm sure at this point you were making considerable money. It's hard for people to see you go through all this, like how can someone support you while you're like I don't even know how to navigate this?

Julie Deane

Guest

39:27

I think I kept them. I was trying to manage all the emails coming in from the customers who were waiting for their bags you know 16,000 of them yourself.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

39:38

I understand. I, totally, totally, totally. I didn't get it for years, years and it was, I remember, using and discovering tech expander.

Julie Deane

Guest

39:47

You know where, if you put in, drag it down, they're all sudden, you know, it'll insert a paragraph, and yeah, and I still have that on my phone sometimes if I put something in and I've mistyped, and so there's this weird combination of characters, it'll suddenly expand it to. Thank you so much for placing your order with the camera.

40:09

This whole paragraph and I'll think, oh my gosh, that takes me back. Because when you're so deep in the trenches, you think that you should be able to keep up with answering all these emails and you're failing, that you're not somehow able to. You know, I had this program then because I can speak a lot faster and I can type, and so I had this one where I could text to talk and just, you know, here you get these things done and I was thinking this is wrong. I should be able to get back to all these people. I was getting like 2000 emails a day. Of course I wouldn't be able to get back and set up a factory, you know, and do my least, because I decided I knew that I could not the minute I found out what he was doing, I would not work with him anymore and I pulled all the leather out of there, even though I still had this enormous backlog.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

41:05

As a result, were you able to kill his knock off business or he would continue because he didn't want to use any of his own supplies.

Julie Deane

Guest

41:11

I'm sure yeah, and he continued and I thought I think it's really important, when things are going very badly, to identify what's going to get you out of the hole, what is going to get you out of that. And so at that point it's not about worrying what he's doing or anger towards him or getting even with him or suing him, or that's not actually going to help, it's not going to fix your situation. No, the only thing that will fix it is either getting another manufacturer up and running really quickly, right, which would be very difficult or starting a factory yourself. I just remember that moment when I went down to face him to tell him I knew what he was doing and it was scary. It was a really scary moment. You remember the drive up? Oh, I remember it so well. I felt.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

42:09

The pain in your stomach. Yeah, so sick.

Julie Deane

Guest

42:12

I had one of the leather tanneries giant lorries following because I would collect everything, collect the leather right but I didn't know where it was going to go.

42:27

And I was going there and there was someone I didn't have that many employees at the time and there was this really young girl that was working for me and she was great and she was sitting at the side and she was saying oh, I'm looking at Twitter because it was all about Twitter back then. Right, right, right, right, I'm looking at Twitter and they're saying oh, we're so busy with this brand, this knockoff brand. He was doing oh, we're so happy, we're so busy, keep your orders coming in, all this kind of thing. And I pulled up outside the factory when I went in.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

42:56

I just Did he not know you were coming.

Julie Deane

Guest

42:59

No, he didn't know I was coming. And I talked to him and I said I know what you're doing, you know, I know what's happening here. And he just said yes, but you need manufacturing and you're a stupid woman, know nothing about manufacturing. So you've got to suck it up. And I just thought I snapped and so I just thought well, at that point I said no, I am pulling out the leather, I'm not going to give you another order. And he said well, you'll be back, you've got no choice and stormed out.

43:31

And I looked around and I thought you know, if you can do that to your best customer, because I was easily his biggest customer, easily easily his biggest and best customer what kind of person does that? And what they like to work for? And so in a real sort of out of body moment, I remember I almost feel like I could see myself just suddenly announcing very calmly well, I'm really sorry, but there are no more saturals for you to make. I have thousands and thousands. At this point it was closer to 20,000 on back of water. But if you want to work for me at my factory, I would love to have you. And I thought who is this person? What factory would that be? Which one are you speaking to? And I ended up taking all but two of his employees, but I really vividly remember driving back to Cambridge after that.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

44:32

Who was driving the truck? You?

Julie Deane

Guest

44:35

No, the man with the leather. I said take it back to the tannery. I'll phone you with a location in the morgue.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

44:45

Just keep driving aimlessly. Go to a tassel Right. Just take it back to the tannery. Take it back to the tannery store. Who went? Who went in the back to collect everything? Did you like physically remove everything? No, the guys from the tannery.

Julie Deane

Guest

44:59

They knew because I said to them we're going down, you supply me with all this leather and you unload it there. So I need you to load it Because I pay for it.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

45:09

It's my leather I need Right Right, was your tannery in the UK? Yes, is that?

Julie Deane

Guest

45:17

Some of it was in the UK and some of it then was from a guy who had some from Italy and from Spain, but he had a sort of like that. You know, there was a place where it all came in and it was stored Right. I drew from that. So you know, thank goodness. But I remember driving back to Cambridge and thinking I think it was shock really because it was very, very calm of thinking what have I just done? Of being time to pick Emily and Max up from school. Perfect, I'll make them their dinner, yeah, I'll make them their tea, and then we can do homework once they've gone to bed. I'll figure this out. I'll go on right move, because I'm not sure what you need for a factory, but I'm pretty sure the first thing you need is a building.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

46:08

Wait. So I want to talk a little bit about you sold a percentage or gave up a percentage Was it majority, minority? And what happened to your local factory that you then created? How did all that evolve from there? Because then now you're really back in control, but I'm assuming it became way too much, for you know just Julie, comma, mom, comma, obe, pre-obe, pre-cbe, just still MUM. I'm sure people by this point you were making so much money or getting enough attention that people were then approaching you and you were like no, no, no, no, no, no, so many, so many.

Julie Deane

Guest

46:44

And it would always be these approaches like oh, would you like to go for lunch and tell me your plans for the future? And I think, no, I don't want to go for lunch. I'm trying to set up a factory. What are you talking about? Right, I'm talking about this.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

46:59

Right, go for lunch. I don't even know you, right, exactly.

Julie Deane

Guest

47:02

And so it was very much one step at a time, because I soon realized that I was going to have to use the money that the people had paid for their bags, that I couldn't make, to set up the factory. That's terrifying, that's scary. If you've never really you know been in manufacturing, you don't. This wasn't the time for me to think oh, I know, I'm going to get a property agent to locate a good factory with. You were like, screw this.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

47:34

I need a building. Yesterday Exactly, I thought yeah.

Julie Deane

Guest

47:38

I need to employ the people that currently work for that horrible. How are you able to pull those?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

47:42

people.

Julie Deane

Guest

47:43

I left my phone number and just said I'm going to work with a nice person and then phoned me. That's amazing, that's savage.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

47:52

That's very savage. It didn't feel savage at the time. It's amazing, necessary.

Julie Deane

Guest

48:01

And all of those people you know. They knew what machine they because I had always been decent and honest and transparent with my first three manufacturers. They were fantastic. At that stage they were saying these are the sewing machines that you need. You need two types of sewing machines, you need a flatbed, you need a post. This is where we get them from. And I was thinking I can't buy these machines. But it turns out it's just a bit like musical instruments. If you're children learning musical instruments, you can hire them and then buy them after a little walk off your.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

48:37

I'm sure there are plenty of rental places that have like industrial storage machines just larger.

Julie Deane

Guest

48:42

But in our case I still remember. You know the flatbed machine was £23.40 a week. You know all of these sort of things Like the devil's in the detail. Yes, there's no detail. I don't know about this business. So you know it was an incredible time, but from having no factory and no premises to the first bag being produced was just over four weeks.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

49:07

Did you move your office to that factory? No, that now.

Julie Deane

Guest

49:12

No, because I live near the children's school. I live in Cambridge, and the horrible manufacturer was down near Leicester, and so I had to search for premises within a sort of like three mile radius of his factory, because I needed people. If they could get to him to work, they could get to me to work.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

49:31

So wow, wow, that's like okay, I guess we're doing this next. So at this point, because like, honestly, we could talk all day. This is like my can bag crack. I'm living for this. You don't even know. These quince ladies who are coming can't hold the candles. This chat Forget that, oh my God. So people started to approach you to get a piece of this. How did you navigate that? Because then that got too messy and then you had to drive again.

Julie Deane

Guest

50:02

Basically, so I had met some people from BDO, one of the sort of big accounting audit tax firms. I'd met them at something because I'd by that stage had one entrepreneur of the year for the whole of Europe.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

50:21

I remember that, yeah.

Julie Deane

Guest

50:23

So there was some celebratory thing and I met somebody from BDO that I thought, oh, you seem nice. And I called them and said, look, I'm getting all these approaches. I don't know these people, I don't know these funds. This is the kind of job that I don't want to take on. So I want you to help me. Just come, bring it down to a short list of, like that that them for me, yeah, the best five, who do you think are the good fit? And then I'll meet with those five and then decide. It was all done very much from a gut sort of feel. It was one very, very good fund that has backed some great places. But I remember visiting their offices and it was so messy I couldn't bear it.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

51:10

So just, you know, my son, when he was in first grade or second grade, there was a little girl who liked him and he went over to her house for a play date and he came home and he's like I just want you to know, I will never marry her. And I said OK, because she didn't form them. They were married and you know as little kids do. And I said, all right, run me through. What's the situation? What are the new benchmarks? And he said her home was so messy. Yes, she didn't clean her plates. Food fell on the floor, no one was golded, no one tidy up. And he's like who lives like that? And he was seven. So you know, you got to go with like this is how I run my home, this is how homes need to be run. Anyone that I'm going to be part of you know.

Julie Deane

Guest

51:55

I just thought this is going to be a true partnership with these people. I can't dread going to their house, you know, to their office in London. I can't dread it. I can't think, oh my gosh, sort yourself out, this isn't good. Yeah, it's down to four, you know, and it was an interesting process and again, another incredible learning experience. And I look back on it now and I think I did choose the right partner, but I, yes, for that time, I chose index ventures and they are amazing, super smart, very, on it, incredible. I really, really like them and I really respect them. But I didn't manage the process after the investment in a good way. I let you do it, but you didn't know how.

52:47

No, I didn't know how, I didn't know how, and I let it dent my sort of confidence in my own ability. I thought I can found something. I don't know how to scale. These people know how to scale, and so the fact that suddenly there was money in the business whereas before there wasn't, it started off with 600 pounds and then it was like virtually everything going towards the school fees and then it was having to set up a factory. You know, without realising or ever thinking, I was going to set up a factory, and so there was never this kind of like feeling of look at us where, well off, suddenly there was. And then there was the big hires that come in at that point and I looked at those people and thought they know what they're doing, they've done this before. I should defer to that and I shouldn't have it was you know what.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

53:38

That is something that has to be learned, that cannot be taught, because I've outsourced enough people whom come in and you just assume they're experts as a result of their work experience, their title, their CD, their resume.

53:56

And then they come in and you're like, oh my God, I still know more than you, I still need to get involved. And then by that point you feel like gosh, I've missed my window to start telling you what to do, so now I can't tell you what to do, because now I don't want to ruffle and mess the whole system up that you put in place to theoretically help me. It turns into a whole cycle of like you see things crumbling, and I think, also as women I think by nature we are, you know, obviously those who are too difficult, then they're pain in the ass, those who aren't are too meek, but you hired people that you authorised to come in and do this, so you don't want to be the one to break it, because then they'll come back on you. So then you're like in this should I, shouldn't I? And then, if I do, I'm going to step away and hopefully they'll take my feedback, and then they don't, and then it just turns into this hot mess of handbags, you know, and things used to be so easy.

Julie Deane

Guest

54:50

Yeah, you know, my mum and I would pick a new colour from a paint chart from a home supplied place. Right, we'd look at that beautiful colour. We can do that. Send it to the tannery. They could match it. Yeah, these new bags would come in in that colour. My mother would stand outside in the garden with a sheet. I would take a photo of the bag. I would then just use my pixel meter, because it's cheaper than Photoshop, to edit the photo. It would be up. It would be up and for sale within 10 minutes of that bag arriving. Yeah, and suddenly these things were taking months. Yeah, and product development what's your inspiration? Tell me what's my inspiration. It's a nice colour and it just feels right. Yeah, you know it's not. Oh, did my inspiration this time is walking through the spice market of Marrakesh? No, this feels like a really great colour. For now, that's my inspiration.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

55:47

Yeah, because I know it will sell and I know you will like it. That is my inspiration.

Julie Deane

Guest

55:52

I know my community and these are the colours they love. They love bold poster paint colours yeah. No, they don't want to see these washed out. Drab, yeah. Muted shape no, because other people can do that. Some people love that and they can buy it from the other place, but we do bold vibrant energy.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

56:15

You've got to know your community, you've got to know and you've got to stand by. You know, I am so appreciative of this whole learning curve that you're so generously sharing with us, because all of this information you come in assuming you're supposed to do it this way. We need the black, we need the brown, we need the ox blood, we need this, but your community really might not want that. No, so stand true to that, because you know what they'll buy and I hope by that point that you know one has done enough ethnography and so forth. I know what they eat, I know what they sleep, I know where they go out to dinner, I know what goes in their bag. As a result of me knowing who they are, I know what car they drive, I know how to design into their lifestyle and the colours they need that will make them happy enough to come back and buy another Vibrant and the shops would look so vibrant.

Julie Deane

Guest

57:07

And then suddenly there's like what's the neutral in this collection? I don't know, because it's not something I would ever wear. Right, you've got a dark brown satchel there. Isn't that neutral enough for anybody? No, we should have like a cream that's not practical. A cream, you know, I'd never have a cream because it's going to get dirty, dirty, clean and out of you. Nobody's going to want a satchel to wear to a wedding. Yeah, you know, so we don't have to worry about that. Oh my.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

57:38

God, julie, I'm taking so much of your time. I would love to you know You're part two. Let's do it. I think we're going to have to because, honestly, like Because the Quince collectors are going to be baying at the gate.

57:53

I know, okay, julie, this is part one, let's do a part two, because there are very few people I can talk to and have this kind of rapport where, going through all this, who've sold their company, have taken ownership back, have sold it again and then can enjoy meeting with the local Quince ladies. So this is part one, julie, talk to me, how can people find follow you or at least learn more in the short term, because we're absolutely doing a part two.

Julie Deane

Guest

58:20

Oh yes, we must do a part two. So I am at the moment on a bit of a break, a bit of a break where I am doing up an old house, but I'm thinking that maybe that process is something people would like to follow along with, because I sort of found process, I think so. So maybe I should just get active again on Instagram and start sharing this never dull journey that I have embarked on and sort of continue to embark on. So I think that that's probably the best way is just through my Instagram.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

59:05

And what is your Instagram?

Julie Deane

Guest

59:08

It's just Julie Dean CBE.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

59:11

And it's Julie J-U-L-I-E-D-E-A-N-E, cbe, correct? Let me have a look on this and just quietly, what does CBE stand for and who gave it to? You Just want to throw that in.

Julie Deane

Guest

59:26

So a CBE is a great honour. It's actually a medal. I have a medal. Well done, yes, and he was then Prince Charles, who is now the king gave me my OBE, which is officer of the Order of the British Empire, and I got bumped up to CBE a couple of years ago and that is commander of the order.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

59:51

And the Queen gave that to you.

Julie Deane

Guest

59:53

Queen gave that to me just before she passed away, correct?

Emily Blumenthal

Host

59:57

Look at you with getting all this stuff. I would keep that stuff in the background. Hang a medal, julie. Hang a medal, come on, it's in the drawer upstairs. I mean, I knew you're British and nobody likes to show off and it's very antithetical culturally. But you know, not everybody here is. Let the Queen's lady see it. I would wear it on a Tuesday. Maybe I'll wear it when we do part two. I'm here for that. Listen, this is part one, julie Dean of the Cambridge Statue Company. Thank you so much for today and maybe by part two I'll even have worked out exactly what my Instagram.

01:00:34

But you are, you are available on LinkedIn, correct, I am.

Julie Deane

Guest

01:00:38

I am on LinkedIn and that is Julie Dean CBE, and Instagram is the fun one, and that's the one that I want to start sharing all my crazy adventures while I find my next project, next chapter Fabulous.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

01:00:53

Thank you so much for being part of Handbag Designer 101. We will be here for part two. Thank you, thanks, bye. Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate and review and follow us on every single platform at Handbag Designer. Thanks so much. See you next time.

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