Most designers collect trend reports, mood boards, and inspirational tear sheets before designing a new collection.
But Coral Chung and Wendy Wen, founders of Senreve, a SF based luxury handbag brand, use different tools: data analytics, surveys, and focus groups.
Both Silicon Valley professionals recognized a gap in the luxury bag category when their designer French handbags weren’t up to par in terms of performance. They were too heavy and weren’t adaptable to their fast paced, globe trotting lifestyle.
So they tried a new approach.
Wharton graduate Coral Chung, a retail strategist at Bain who worked with the USA team for Prada’s IPO and Stanford graduate Wendy Wen, an investor at Blackstone and TPG Capital, used their respective skills to conduct extensive research and surveyed hundreds of women in asking what would make the perfect bag.
They discovered that women wanted versatility without compromising on quality and the luxury aesthetic.
Enter Senreve, their four-month old handbag collection, launched with three inaugural silhouettes that feature a seamless conversion.
The Maestra comes with a shoulder strap and can easily convert into a knapsack; the Doctor can be worn three ways with the ends opening up to add a few inches to the interior space; and the Crossbody can be converted into a clutch and a wristlet.
It’s this benefit that makes Senreve bags sought after by professional women, from new graduates to high-level executives, seeking to simplify their lives.
Lynn Jurich, CEO and Founder of Sunrun, was one of Senreve’s first customers and claims the Maestra bag as part of her core products.
“The Maestra Bag is perfect when I'm traveling for work and need to carry a lot of documents and a laptop. It's also great to wear as a sophisticated backpack, so I can be hands-free to hold my daughter."
While data analytics were used to create the usability of the bags, the luxury aesthetic component needed to be sourced.
An extensive global search led Chung and Wen to secure a partnership with the Tuscan factory that also makes bags for Balenciaga and Fendi; a triumph for a start up company interested in small batch productions.
“The partnership was willing to explore new techniques to make a better bag. Other factories would have just said, ‘So and so would have done it like this,’” said Chung.
Wen and Chung are hands on at every step and work closely with their handbag designer, an alumnus of Tom Ford’s Gucci era, to ensure that their customers' needs are met while maintaining the highest standards of visual aesthetics for their luxury bags.
In applying old world craftsmanship to the designs, Senreve is able to create a bag that uniquely satisfies both luxury and performance.
Their choice of the finest pebbled leather ensures the durability to withstand heavy use, is scratch resistant and, to a certain degree, weather proof. Meticulous cutting techniques are engaged to minimize any waste of the raw materials. Their interior lining, designed with seven pockets, is made from stain proof microsuede, which gives it softness and makes it hard to rip. Each hand-stitched bag features their signature billowy shape, the result of a time-consuming technique where the seams are attached through the inside, then inverted.
Other key features such as hand painted raw edges, a discreet logo, and the lack of hardware details drew similarities to another luxury Italian handbag company renowned for their simplicity and clean lines.
Chung is happy with the comparison, but noted the significant difference in price. “The execution of the intangibles is the key in making this a luxury bag,” said Chung.
It’s paid off.
In the four months since the digital boutique has launched, some of the bags have already sold out.
Yet Chung claims they are still a “scrappy” company, meaning they haven’t invested in any marketing or advertising, even though they were able to secure an impressive roster of Silicon Valley investors which includes the Chairman of Jet Blue, a former partner at Warburg Pincus, and a former partner at Sequoia.
“Everything is word of mouth, so it’s built momentum,” said Chung.
Their next steps are to expand the core collection with new silhouettes and fabrication and to refine their brand message.
In the meantime, Chung and Wen are making sure they are up to speed with the data from their customer’s feedback and studying their behavioral algorithms.
Handbags and Accessories: $95-$895.
Jennifer Lee covers luxury lifestyle for Forbes.com. Follow her on Instagram & Twitter: @jennleestylist