Thursday, August 13, 2009

Handbag Line Aims For Tween Customers

By Keiko Morris Source: Newsday

Photo credit: Photo by Pablo Corradi for Newsday | Entrepreneur Daisy Cook, 29, of Atlantic Beach, NY, has launched a new 'tween brand which includes a line of handbags and backpacks aimed at young girls returning to school in a month.

Daisy Cook's line of handbags and backpacks is all about inciting rebellion among the tween girl populace -- well, the sort of rebellion she figures parents will support.

"The whole brand is centered around rebelling against the bimbocracy," said Cook, 29, a fashion designer and entrepreneur based in Atlantic Beach. "We live in a culture, unfortunately, that is so driven by sexualized images [with which] girls very young are trying to identify themselves."

Rebelle Friendship Bags, with its interactive Web site, is Cook's antidote. Cook's line of bags is designed to be split into two bags and shared, collected or traded. (Click here to see the girls and bags interact.)

The concept behind them is to teach sharing and to appeal to the dominant tween play pattern, which, for girls ages 8 to 12, is forming friendship circles, she said.

"There is just a sort of void in the market for wholesome products," she said.

The power of friendships is continued on the Web site, where a multiethnic cast of characters aspires to become Olympians and fashion designers and talks about crushes, sports and civic interests like recycling.

Despite a November launch in a tumultuous economy, the Rebelle brand has notched a number of successes.

Cook debuted the Rebelle Friendship Bags with a launch party at FAO Schwarz.

The line, which includes handbags and backpacks, is being carried by local stores like certain Matty's Toy Stop locations and Beverly Frills in Port Jefferson, and will be featured on the shopping channel QVC in October.

Department stores such as Nordstrom, Dillards and Von Maur, which have locations in the Midwest, also have ordered the Rebelle line for the upcoming holiday season, Cook said. And she is in talks about licensing the Rebelle characters.

Still, bringing a product to market has not been without its hurdles and lessons learned. Cook -- whose background includes working in sales for Norma Kamali and a baby product company -- had to find a factory that could produce her product line within her price points (the retail price for handbags ranges between $35 and $50, $70 for backpacks) without compromising its quality, detail and aesthetics.

Add to that the myriad new government regulations for children's products and testing procedures required.

"You have to be your own quality control, and if that means sending third-party inspectors at the beginning, middle and end of the production," Cook said, ". . . it will save you in the end."

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