Literate Handbags are gutted vintage books, which are uniquely decorated and outfitted to hold personal possessions. The first prototype, which Stevie describes as “crappy,” was held together with duct tape. It didn’t look pretty, but it worked, and before long, the two partners were knee-deep in glue and vintage books.
Immediately following the Literate Handbag’s creation, the partners set out to find a name for their work. Playing on the name of the mill they were working at, Dieu Donné (French for God Given), they sought a name to indicate the opposite -- something like God Stolen. The solution was La Voleuse (Fr: female thief), which gives the company a sassy feel and connects with the original product, purses.
For the logo, the partners wanted a handmade look that would complement the name and brand identity. As Stevie points out, most large fashion labels are extremely minimal -- usually white on black in a standard font. Looking to steer clear of this trend, they created a font by scanning pictures of old letters and piecing them together to form La Voleuse. The result is a handcrafted, less than perfect look, with a very feminine, old French cabaret look, characterized by vibrant colors and the saloon type letters.
Once the partners finalized their brand, they began to concentrate on publicity and sales. They launched a brand savvy website lavoleuse.com and went from boutique to boutique with their products. The small label was quickly recognized and picked up by fashion trend magazines such as ELLE Girl, Time Out New York and Vogue.
After receiving tremendous reception from the fashion industry, clients and colleagues, the partners were inspired to expand the product line. They went to work producing scarves, shoe clips and hand-painted ballet shoes.
As she watches the line expand beyond handbags, Stevie thinks the identity continues to describe the brand. The main quality of the brand is in the handmade vintage style – a look that is consistent across the product line.
Looking back on the experience, Stevie says the brand creation was the fun part of starting the company. And amazingly, the partners have seen eye to eye on all of the branding issues, which no doubt contributes to the overall success of the brand.
Involved in every step of the brand from idea to creation and ongoing management, the partners completely embody the brand. But maybe not so much that they have actually resorted to thievery. When asked if she ever wanted to be a thief, Stevie confessed: “Oh yeah, all the time. I totally have a criminal mind. But,” she added, “I have never stolen anything.”