Leoluca Handbags: A Fashion Start-up Story, Made in the USA for PR Girls Everywhere

On their website, Leoluca designers and long-time best friends Emma Lezak & Lauren Letizio state that their company is so-named for both Italian Saint Leoluca, as well as the Italian 1950’S mobster, Leoluca Bagarella, or more plainly “derived from both good and evil.” It is this juxtaposition of edgy sophistication and clear-minded marketing (both women are graduates of the Fashion Merchandising and Marketing program at FIDM) that has helped the small, USA-made handbag brand successfully launch six seasonal collections in the past three years.

While their educational background taught the basics in brand positioning, public relations was another story. “In the beginning we didn’t have any real-world experience to understand that there were PR firms out there whose entire job was pitching the story.  We just thought “stuff will come” and then we kept seeing all these other brands with these great press hits. So we started actively searching for an agency to help us.” Initially, Leoluca worked with Elle Communications, noting that “Elle did so much for us. We went to New York with them. We went to Vogue with them. That was big for us.”

“We like to think that our target customer is like us…Someone who appreciates style and trends but isn’t overly trendy. But we’ve learned that while everyone likes our pieces, it’s actually an older woman who often makes a purchase. We’re do surveys and ask our customers through social media to tell us what they are interested in. As a result, we’redesigning a lot more for what our customer wants.”

Editors and bloggers were drawn to the Made in USA messaging, though both women note that while that messaging worked well in the press, customers see it more as a nice bonus, rather than a deciding factor and that buyers simply care about getting the lowest price possible.  Now in the midst of securing buyers for their Fall collection, available online late summer, and promoting the retail launch of their spring line, Emma & Lauren are working with Haus of Chica PR agency and showroom in Los Angeles, to continue to grow brand awareness and sales. Because the Leoluca line was already a part of the Haus of Chic showroom, it made sense to also leverage the agency’s PR services. Being both in the showroom and on the PR roster allows for sales opportunities, like an upcoming trunk show, as well as PR events and increased opportunities with celebrities.

“On certain sites we have seen that a blogger placement has driven substantial traffic and sales. We want to increase our e-commerce and have started to do some sidebar advertising, which we would like to increase to help with online sales.”

For PR Girls who are more interested in craftsmanship and functionality than a designer name, the on-trend yet utilitarian shape of a Leoluca handbag (their dual-colored envelope clutch fits your iPad), not only offers an instant “where’d you get it” among curious co-workers and editors, but a slightly smug knowledge that the purchase also supports female entrepreneurship, friendship and materials and labor sourced completely in the United States. For an everyday bag full of wow and just enough hardware, I’m not sure you could do better than the red Lincoln duffel bag, (pictured above), complete with two cell phones pockets made, I’m postulating, just for hard-working publicists with more than one phone – I know you’re out there!

Connect with Emma and Lauren on Twitter @loveleoluca





About This Author

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. Crosby spends her time managing PR Couture and mentoring fashion publicists through PRISM and Instappable, as well as the biannual NYC workshop, Fashion PR Confidential. Occasionally, she opens up limited consulting spots for emerging brands through her signature offering, The Brand Elixir.