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In Conversation with Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Co.

The Cambridge Satchel Co. was born from a passion for excellence. When Julie and her mum Freda started the company at their kitchen table in Cambridge, they had one goal – to make enough money to provide Julie’s children with an excellent education and a brighter future. Their pursuit of excellence underpins everything they do, as they remain committed to making exceptionally good quality bags that last a lifetime. Bags that can carry a lifetime of learning – of curiosity, creativity, and adventure. It’s why they thrive in Cambridge, a city rich in history and culture, but nevertheless ever looking forward, shaping change, and driving progress. 

A beautiful blend of old and new, that’s Cambridge, and it’s in their DNA. In all the brand's bags you’ll find a taste of tradition, brought back to life with style, finesse and fun. Behind every design lies a story waiting to be told. Behind every bag, a story waiting to be written. In 2008 Julie Deane CBE started the company from her kitchen table with just £600 and now the brand is a handmade-in-Britain worldwide phenomenon employing more than 140 people and selling to over 120 countries.

In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interviewed Julie Deane, Founder of The Cambridge Satchel Co. about the founding story of the Made in Britain handcrafted leather bags brand. It was at New York Fashion Week when they got a first big break when bloggers were seen at the fashion shows with florescent satchels and The New York Times covered the brand in a story. Our host Peter Brooker and Julie talked about doing things differently to gain brand awareness, when your manufacturer copies your product, taking manufacturing in-house, being the focus of a Google advert, sustainability, and the joys of punting.

“I founded the Cambridge Satchel Company 12 years ago, and it started from my kitchen table with just £600. The business grew incredibly quickly, and it's been a huge roller coaster ride, but it's also been an incredible journey. Everything is made here in the UK, which I feel is important. I never intended for the company to have its own manufacturing and I was determined to never take any sort of financing because loans make me stressed. I started out with a brilliant manufacturer but soon the demand had outstripped their capabilities of making 200 to 250 bags a week. At one point we had 4 small manufacturers, which then gave us some issues around consistency of product." 

"I was very loyal to those manufacturers because they were brilliant and lovely people. But then we had a huge moment at New York Fashion Week when I sent out fluorescent satchels to some of the bloggers sat in the audience and the New York Times noticed and covered our brand. Suddenly everybody hit my slightly cranky website and before we knew it, we had 16,000 bags on order. Each of the four manufacturers could only make 200 or 250 bags a week so that wasn't ideal. Everybody wanted our satchels, and they couldn't have them, which made people want them more.”

This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 141 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Julie Deane, Founder of cambridgesatchel.com. You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast player.

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