Vera Bradley is an American tote bag company beloved for their iconic patterns. Currently offering 8 handbag silhouettes, all quilted, all cotton, but that’s where the similarities end. Vibrant textiles in elaborate paisley and floral patterns, are seemingly as unique as a fingerprint. With an archive spanning over 30 years, it’s no wonder girls and women alike cherish the timeless accessories.
Founded in 1982 by new neighbors Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller. Their first stab at entrepreneurship was with a wall papering company, Up Your Wall. Previous endeavors in this field had been made by Barbara, under equally cheeky names such as Paper Dolls and Well Hung. Returning from a trip, the decorating duo lamented the lack of stylish luggage. They began designing duffles the very next day with $500 and a name borrowed from Barbara’s mother, an ever-stylish woman with a knack for interiors.
The company founded in friendship and family created 12 successful prototypes. Friends were brought on as seamtresses and a salesforce. In an interview for Fortune, Barbara mused, “We’d walk through an airport or be at a party, carrying a bag, and people would ask about it. That was our marketing.” Chicago gift shows proved fruitful, leading the ladies to create outfits for the events. All of a sudden, Vera Bradley clothing was in demand. Now, the brand has a hand in everything from stationery to bedding and fragrance.
Garnering $10,000 the first year of business, sales quickly grew to a million by the third, presently averaging half a billion annually. In 2007, brick and mortar stores were launched, 30 to be exact, under the name Pandora’s Purse. A decade later, Vera Bradley operates 161 namesake stores and is available in countless department stores and specialty boutiques. However, when the company went public in 2010, it seemed like they’d bitten off more than they could chew. Aiming for a goal of 300 independent retail locations, inundating the market with new styles, and tedious customizations saw products being discounted by 70%. Enter Robert Wallstrom in 2013, who assumed the role of CEO. Wallstrom slowed product development, and continues to expand the company’s reach.
As told by the company's website, “At its very core, Vera Bradley is an innovative brand for women. We’ve always been inspired by the needs of real women, and our proudest moments have been when we can bring communities of women together through their shared love of beauty.”
Mini bags for toddlers, backpacks for teens, diaper bags for moms, and lunch totes for your cool aunt; it’s millennials that are Vera Bradley’s white whale. However, the brand’s design has always been rooted in necessity, and that approach will surely prove effective among this niche. New fabrications including leather, phone charging capabilities, and digital ads celebrating womanhood, are being cast out to reel in Gen Y women.
Vera Bradley bags, wristlets, and wallets are available at Inspirations stores every day!
Browse the gallery below to explore styles in store, under $20. Better yet, stop in and find that perfect pattern for you!