I was so excited about my purchase and I proudly carried it everywhere everyday. Only problem, is this is what I would like to call the starter handbag. It’s the bag everyone gets when they want to invest in a designer handbag. Yet, there is a budget in place so you aren’t quite balling out of control.
Fast forward to now and everyone has this same bag. It’s expensive, however, it’s not too extravagant. Everyone selects this bag and I’m sure some of you reading this have the bag I’m speaking of. Everyday you are guaranteed to run into your handbag clone. Yes, these are total first world problems but real handbag problems nonetheless.
I’m no longer trying to keep up with the latest monogrammed filled designer bags for a variety of reasons. Yet, I still want something of quality yet functional as well as stylish and sophisticated. Also, something that a million and one people won’t have.
Let’s just say, thank God for Laudi Vidni.
Meet Laudi VidniThe store recently opened at the shops at North Bridge and it’s providing accessory conscious Chicago fashionistas with a fully customizable experience. Guests can select from a wide selection of the finest leathers and patterns to the create the custom piece of their dream. With about 20 handbag styles to choose from, let’s just say you no longer have to worry about clones of the same bag.
Harvard Business graduates turned entrepreneurs Laura Kofoid and Grace Tsao-Wu created Laudi Vidni (individual spelled backwards) because they wanted a handbag that wasn’t heavy on labels yet customizable to their everyday needs. No need for monograms or expensive labels that shout your social status from the rooftops. Exquisite fine leathers and chic designs are enough to get everyone’s attention. Best part is no one will have your bag and they’ll wonder where you go it. You can then proudly say, it’s custom Laudi Vidni.
I recently caught up with co-founder Laura Kofoid on her vision behind the brand. We talk about the entrepreneurial journey, signature Laudi Vidni products, and why Chicago is a great home for the shop.
Without further ado, let’s learn more about Laudi Vidni.
From Business School to Handbags
TCL: Describe the origins of Laudi Vidni. What was the ah-ha moment that made you want to create your own line?
LK: Building a company around gorgeous custom bags made a lot of sense to Grace and me. First of all, it spoke to us as women who are all about personal style, who aren’t label conscious, who just want what we want. Secondly, it spoke to us as experienced retailers…we loved the fact that everything would be made-to-order so there wouldn’t be markdowns (the bane of my existence as a buyer).
TCL: Talk about that entrepreneurial leap. What motivated you and Grace to move forward with launching Laudi Vidni?
LK: I spent my career in retail buying and product development for companies big and small. I loved retail and fashion, but I wasn’t very good at working for other people and I always had a desire to create something beautiful. So after I lost my job, I decided the time was right to step out on my own. At the same time, I connected with Grace and we just started to have a blast exploring business ideas together. We kissed a lot of toads over several years before we stumbled upon the idea of custom handbags. But when we came upon it, we knew it was good!
TCL: So you went into business with your college friend Grace. What has been the most rewarding part about working on a business with your friend?
LK: Life and business just never go as planned. Grace and I have been through a lot together. We’ve had to have hard conversations about money, about which idea to execute, about who does what, about health, about personal priorities. But we both are inherently no-drama grown-ups, with open hearts and kindness and honesty at the core. Knowing that about each other and working from that place, has allowed our friendship to deepen, even as our business relationship has changed.
The Laudi Vidni Experience
TCL: What is something that we’ll notice or find with Laudi Vidni that we can’t get anywhere else?
LK: Well, first of all, the concept that you can create your perfect bag for the same price as an inline brand like Coach. We’re the only custom leather handbag company at our price point, based in the US.
Then, of course, is a gorgeous bag made in the US. Not a handmade looking bag, but a really sophisticated bag made in the US.
How about our leathers? They’re beautiful, and feel like leather, not plastic! Much of what passes for leather in department stores is leather that is treated with a PU coating so it feels like plastic. Our leathers feel like leather. And you certainly can’t find all the color and texture options in any other retailer or any other brand.
Finally, it’s the little details. Check out our zippers. Highest quality, smooth slide! Hand-brushed hardware (go ahead and hold ours, then go hold some other brands…you will immediately feel the difference). Straps that are folded, not painted to they won’t chip (we’ve all had that experience).
Designing the Perfect Line
TCL: What considerations did you keep top of mind when designing the line?
LK: We’re good listeners to our customers and they pretty much guide everything we do. In my career prior to Laudi Vidni, I had experience in apparel, footwear, home furnishings, furniture…but never handbags. So I feel like I’ve gotten my PhD in purses just by listening to women.
The thing I’ve learned is that since most women carry a bag most waking hours of their days, a bag is really important (don’t judge me, it just never occurred to me)! And it’s important that it WORKS for them, and that it looks good. We try very hard to blend the perfect mix of functionality and form. I also know that women don’t leave Laudi Vidni without buying a bag, and go to another custom handbag retailer. If they don’t buy a bag from us, they go to Coach or Michael Kors or one of the large global brands. So I’ve always identified those brands as our competition. I want customers to happily choose Laudi Vidni over them, so the bar is really high for us.
TCL: You use about 40 luxurious leathers in your collection. What went into the extensive selection process of these leathers?
LK: Our leathers are all tanned in Italy or the US, because that’s just where the best leathers come from. We try to keep a mix of solids, textures, finishes and colors to appeal to most everyone, and to provide mix and match options for our styles. But beyond the look of the leather, we care very much about how a leather wears. Sometimes, we choose leathers that are more fragile (eg: calf hair) because it’s just so magnificently beautiful, but we make sure to tell customers that. Most of our leathers are beautiful and durable! As for color selection, we have a pretty collaborative and out-spoken team (and group of customers!)…someone always has a point of view about a shade or texture we’re missing.
The Best of Laudi Vidni
TCL: What is your favorite Laudi Vidni product?
LK: I am actually a boring, yet high-maintenance handbag person. I work and need my bag to work. So everyday, I carry a large tote. Used to be the Forte, then the Cambiare, now it’s the Opus Tote Large…always with a zipper. I have to be able to easily cram computer, folders, wallet, cosmetic bag, extra scarf, shoes, umbrella, sunglasses (2 pair), lunch, etc in my bag. When I can’t do that, or I have to think about how to “pack” my bag, I get very crabby. So I change the leathers, make sure to include my monogram and have matching wallet and cosmetic bag…and then I feel polished and content. My aesthetically favorite bag is the Sonata Shoulder Bag. I do have one (in turquoise and cayenne leathers), and I just admire it in my closet because sadly, I’m not that cool to use it.
TCL: Who is the Laudi Vidni customer and what do they look for in your products?
LK: A Laudi Vidni customer is looking for the same thing as a customer of any other brand: a bag that works and looks good. The difference is that a Laudi Vidni customer doesn’t need a big logo to make her feel fabulous, and she’s willing to be part of the process to get her perfect bag.
TCL: What makes Chicago a good market for Laudi Vidni?
LK: Chicago is great because Chicago women are great and women who visit Chicago from other parts of the country and world are great! And we’re so lucky to have such an incredible manufacturer right here.
Words of Advice
TCL: What words of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
LK: Expect the rule of two. It will take you twice as long and cost you twice as much to do anything. In our case, it has been the rule of 10! And understand yourself. Being an entrepreneur is exhausting, humbling (you will do literally everything wrong), isolating, expensive.
You will walk the line between determination and insanity. It’s not glamorous and many days (months? years?), it’s not fun either. There is no one to plunge the toilet, except for you. If that all sounds better than working for someone else and you have the financial means to take the risk, go for it! (Did I convince everyone to stay in their corporate job?).
Huge thanks to Laura for being a part of the feature. You can check out Laudi Vidni at the Shops at North Bridge. Also, my custom Laudi Vidni will be arriving in a few weeks so stay tuned for a peek at my bag.
*All photos credit to Laudi Vidni