The Warby Parker for Luxury Leather Bags – Linjer founders revealed
Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Birkin– what do these all have in common? They’re all the names of well-known brands, which offer high end luxury bags at prices up to $150,000. For those who want a luxury leather bag, that won’t break your bank account, look no further. Roman and Jenn created Linjer as a way to bring affordable luxury leather bags to the market. Curious about their process, I contacted Roman, co-founder of Linjer, with my questions regarding their production and company.
Q. What inspired you to start Linjer?
A. The idea for Linjer was born of our own needs. Both Jenn and I used to work in conservative industries where it was critical to dress well. We had tailor-made suits and nice shoes, but we were missing that last piece that would have completed the look: a great leather bag.
The problem was that the high-quality leather briefcases we saw on the market all cost well above $1000. That was just way too far out of our price range. And the more affordable leather bags used substandard materials and were of poor construction — and we are both philosophically against buying low-quality things that last for a few months. So we were both using these horrid nylon bags that we’d gotten for free with our laptops.
Style woes aside, Jenn was starting up her own direct-to-consumer women’s shoe company. She was learning a lot about manufacturing and leather (and the horrors of shoe sizing). At one point, we realized that we could leverage a lot of that knowledge to address our own need for awesomely-made, awesomely-priced leather goods. We knew that many of our peers shared this need and we decided to just go for it.
Q. How are you able to reduce cost while providing a high quality product to market?
A. We work with the exact same suppliers that many luxury brands use, so our cost of production works out to be roughly the same for similar products. However, there’s a big divergence in retail prices. A product we would sell for $449 (say, a briefcase) would probably cost $1,500+ if it had a luxury logo on it.
Q. What explains the big price differential?
A. First, luxury brands keep their prices artificially high to create an air of exclusivity. Our mission is quite the opposite — we want to make it easier for people to own fine leather goods. We dislike the concept of the “luxury premium” and we’ve done away with it.
Secondly, luxury brands have a lot of costs that we don’t have. They have to maintain fancy retail spaces, give up margin to distributors, and pay for celebrity endorsements, glossy magazine ads, billboards, etc.
We sell directly to consumers online, so there are no middlemen taking cuts and we don’t have to pay for expensive real estate. We also don’t spend excessively on marketing; we’re relying on the quality of the products and the passion of our community to drive awareness of what we’re doing.
Q. How would you like your customers to feel about touching and feeling your product?
A. There’s a sense of pride and confidence that you feel when you wear something that is well-made. I feel that whenever I put on my tailored suit from Jantzen. That’s the same feeling we hope that others feel when they use Linjer products.
Q. What does “good design” mean to you, and how does it factor into the way your products are made?
A. Good design starts with a deep understanding of users’ needs. When we design each products, we start by creating a profile of a user. We imagine all the situations in which this person would use the product and from there, we create a list of required functions. After that comes the most difficult (and fun) part: designing a product that addresses these needs yet is beautiful and simple, without extraneous details.
It’s easy to make something functional, but it’s challenging to create something that is both functional and elegant.
Q. What makes a bag of “good quality” and how do you incorporate those elements into your products?
A. In short, it’s about using the very best materials and the highest level of craftsmanship.
For materials: we use full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather, YKK Excella zippers and industrial-grade polyester thread. Full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather is really special stuff, and usually only niche leather brands use it.
For craftsmanship: we work with a factory that supplies top luxury brands and they take a lot of pride in getting every detail right. We work closely with the factory to ensure that our products are made to last: we don’t take shortcuts that compromise the structural integrity of our products, e.g. gluing pieces together or shaving down the leather.
Q. Why is leather such a crucial material to you for your products, and what does it represent?
A. Quality vegetable-tanned leather is classy and aspirational, yet also very grounded. We wouldn’t necessarily say the same of other types of leather.
Q. How would you describe the typical Linjer customer?
A. The typical Linjer customer appreciates quality.
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