The Classic&Quirky Handbag Brand Made For Day&To&Night Wear

In Refinery29’s Talking Shop series, we’re chatting with owners of up-and-coming small businesses about their experiences launching, the big challenges and wins they’ve faced, and of course, their products and services.When British handbag designer Esin Akan was launching her namesake brand in 2012, she knew the challenges she was up against — after all, she had already been around the high-end accessories block while working for the likes of Burberry and Anya Hindmarch. She’d also been on the consumer end as well, searching for a bag that could help organize her day-to-night life. Ironically enough, however, the brands she had worked for couldn’t exactly deliver the goods she needed. While at those gigs, Akan witnessed firsthand the trials and tribulations of bringing extremely pricey designer goods to the city folks who needed them most for their daily grind. The chic urbanites were willing to invest in quality, stylish bags but these carryalls also had to hold up to the rumble and tumble of everyday schlepping. But where to find trendy, premium bags that didn’t cost a fortune? That’s when Akan ventured to design her own collection, honing in on a classic-but-contemporary aesthetic that could nestle somewhere in between the longstanding heritage legacy of Burberry and the cartoony quirk of Anya Hindmarch. Ahead, we catch up with Akan on her emerging brand — which has already piqued the interest of British style stars like Cressida Bonas, Olivia Bentley, Mariko Kuo, Lolita Mas, and the royal herself, Meghan Markle — and how sustainable practices, functional designs, and a handful of Turkish artisans have come together for a lineup of handbags made to carry you throughout whatever your day holds. (Psst, also be sure to subscribe to Esin Akan’s VIP club to score 10% off your first purchase.)

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Esin Akan Midi Pimlico, $542

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How would you describe the Esin Akan customer?“She is a confident, independent, and courageous woman who loves to enjoy life. She is financially independent, works hard, and plays hard. She values her family and friends. She is interested in travel, art, shopping, business, investment, trends, fashion, and food. She loves exploring, traveling, and enjoying herself at any point. She is a sensible shopper who likes to award herself with life’s luxuries. She values authentic brands and unique, timeless designs. She loves to explore fashion brands and trends and appreciates quality over quantity. She cares about sustainability, how things are made, and the brands’ contribution to our planet.”What did you feel was missing in the handbag space that led you to launch Esin Akan?“When I started working for Anya Hindmarch, I looked for a bag in my new boss’s range to impress her. I needed a bag suitable for work, gym, and an evening out. None of the bags suited my needs for a weekday. A day started at the gym, continued at the office, and ended with my girlfriends at a cocktail bar in Central London. Most bags I found in the market were too small or too big, too functional but not aesthetically pleasing, logo-focused but not necessarily high quality, and too expensive. I thought women deserved better — a light bag that accommodates everyday essentials in an organized way that looks cool and unique and adapts to multiple occasions. A high-quality bag without the designer bag price tag. A bag designed around the lifestyle of an urban woman, but not only in trends. That’s how the seeds of my own handbag line and brand were planted.”

Esin Akan Mini Belgravia, $365

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What sets Esin Akan apart from other handbag brands?“We design distinctive and timeless leather handbags that are sustainably crafted for confident women to stand out while enjoying any occasion. Every piece in our collection is multi-purpose and can adapt to multiple scenarios: From day to evening, weekend to a wedding, work to a weekend break. The Midi Belgravia, our best seller, can be worn as an everyday crossbody bag or as a clutch for a business meeting, or as a shoulder bag for an evening out with girlfriends. No need to go home and swap!”Why and how did you decide on Turkey as the country (and its craftspeople) to manufacture your bags?“While working for Burberry, I worked with a couple of great suppliers in Turkey. I realized during production that Turkey is a hub for high-quality leather bag production due to the availability of high-quality leather and experienced leather artisans, and shorter lead times. Most globally well-known designer brands have been producing their leather bags in Turkey because the exceptionally well-trained artisans craft designer bags with exquisite attention to detail.”

Esin Akan Emma, $633

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How has your brand evolved since its launch in 2012?“I launched the business during my MBA at London Business School. It was right after our company got the start-up award of the year, and we won a

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