5. The Design

In April, I started commuting from school in upstate New York to New York City every weekend (5 hour ride) for more interviews, meetings with relibit, and browsing department stores and the garment district for bag silhouette ideas (yes, that’s all I was doing…just browsing…)

I wanted to start small – with one tote and one crossbody.

I watched a bunch of youtube videos teaching how to draw patterns, and bounced around coffee shops working on the first two designs. I doodled in class, at Bryant Park at 6:30am, on the subway, while watching rick and morty. I remember so vividly walking into staples and picking up a sketchbook and ruler one morning, and walking to a nearby coffee shop with great lighting. I sat there for 5 hours trying to make every corner and edge perfect. By the time I was done the sun had set, the table was covered in eraser shavings, and my iced coffee had melted into lukewarm coffee flavored water.

Initial ideas

You know how dreams are always so vivid in your mind, but when you try to write them out on paper they seemed so…one dimensional? Well, design is very much the same way. My first, second, and 18th attempt to design the perfect bag all fell so very, very flat (hah)

So I did what any defeated girl would do, and continued to do “research” in department stores…I also set up a Maker’s Row account to find designers and manufacturers to help us come up with our first pattern and sample. It was time to bring in the experts.

After the first round of emails with potential designers I decided to focus on delivering the perfect tote in two colors for our initial launch. Quotes for patterns and samples in NYC were so high I couldn’t justify doing two bags for the first launch –  your girl’s gotta eat! Besides, a tote is universally useful (but stay tuned for a crossbody!)

I ended up choosing a choosing a Brooklyn based designer for our first pattern and sample. She had great reviews, the fastest response and turnaround time (3 weeks), was based in NYC, and willing to meet up to discuss details.  Everyone else quoted me a timeline of at least 2-3 months and prices of $3000+ which I thought was a very hefty fee to charge my only semi-artistically challenged self.

We worked out a timeline and I arranged for sample material to be shipped to her. I also picked out hardware, paint, and trimmings from the Garment District. I was that lost looking girl wearing ratty sneakers and a hoodie amongst the uber sophisticated Parsons and FIT fashion prodigies, juggling a coffee in one hand and an umbrella in the other, asking the patient sales associates if I could only buy 6 inches of cord (they’re sold by the yard).

Looking at possible lining materials!

First, Anna made a muslin prototype of the bag. It was so cool seeing my idea come to life, even though I stabbed my finger on one of the staples holding it together. 

It thought it looked great, so I was pumped to see the finished sample in 3 weeks. 

In the meantime, I needed to come up with a brand name! I needed to name my baby, and there was an immense amount of pressure to pick the perfect one. And my secret weapon of choice? Browsing baby names in foreign languages.

That’s how, after weeks of scrolling, I landed on Freja – a Scandinavian name that represented the Norse goddess of love. Given our mission of compassion and transparency, it seemed like the perfect name. We secured the website domain and social profiles, and officially registered as an LLC.

And just like that, I was no longer working on “a vegan leather bag company.”

I was building Freja. 

Xoxo,
Spending a quarter of her time on a bus Jenny

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