The secret behind Vera Bradley’s success? Friends, designs and bold colors
Friendship has always been the cornerstone of Vera Bradley’s success. In 1982, company co-founders Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller discovered a need for fashionable women’s luggage. With just $500, Barb and Pat created the company and designed their first line. The rest, as they say, is history.
With a commitment to the company’s mission statement — to be a girl’s best friend — Vera Bradley is known for its high-quality quilted-cotton handbags and colorful prints. (Vera Bradley uses the terms “print” or “color” to describe its iconic patterns.) Recently Vera Bradley expanded its offerings and debuted its first line of leather and faux-leather handbags. This is the first time that such a line has made an appearance with the company, and I think it’s safe to say it’s been successful.
Some of the new line is quilted; these items have a slight modification to the traditional Vera Bradley diamond stitching. And in true Vera Bradley fashion, the leather and faux-leather line has plenty of bold colors, such as Cobalt, Fuchsia, Green, Tango Red, Magenta and Black, to name just a few. The insides of the bags are just as fun and feature that signature Vera Bradley design. This girl’s “best friend” just took it up a few notches!
Every season, Vera Bradley debuts colors developed after months of trend research based on what it is seeing in the fashion world. It pays attention to patterns, shapes, colors, techniques and even ties to history. Its talented team of print designers gets to work, and many variations of prints are presented.
In 2006, Vera Bradley debuted a new color called Java Blue. It was a bit of a game changer and raised the company to a new level. Vera Bradley had had popular prints before, and it has had them since, but this singular print hit at the perfect moment. The company designed Java Blue with the idea that turquoise and brown was going to be the color combination of the season. It was right. To date, Java Blue has had the longest shelf life of any Vera Bradley color.
We are beyond fortunate to call Vera Bradley one of our clients. In fact, Sue Britton worked there prior to starting Britton Marketing & Design Group with her husband, Jeff. We’ve designed its catalogs for years, developed its stationery line and volunteered at the Vera Bradley Classic. We understand the company. We know what makes it tick. Some of us have been known to dream in paisley.
So what makes Vera Bradley so successful? Fussiness, attention to trends, friendship, magic and luck. No, seriously. There is something hidden in its most popular prints. I remember the one that I first fell in love with. It was called Watercolor and was available from January 1999 to January 2001. It wasn’t a rip-roaring success, but it made me happy. That’s what Vera Bradley does. That’s the magic. It harnesses fun designs and bold, trendy colors to make people happy.
For instance, my aunt Barb was trying to get to Fort Wayne, Indiana, from Reno, Nevada. Due to bad weather, flights from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Fort Wayne were cancelled. She was trying to figure out what to do when she saw a group of women with Vera Bradley bags. She walked up to them and struck up a conversation. Lo and behold, they too were going to Fort Wayne. The common denominator that brought them together: Vera Bradley. My aunt felt instinctively that if they were carrying Vera Bradley bags they must be accessible and friendly. She was right.
When I travel, I like to play a little game called “What’s the oldest print?” While traveling overseas with a Vera Bradley team for a press check, we saw Vera Bradley everywhere. Among the harried crowds and people waiting for their flights, a little spot of Vera Bradley is noticeable and brings a smile to your face. The reason? The colors. They are happy colors. You can sometimes let the design drift to the side if the colors are strong enough.
Take a look at Vera Bradley’s Facebook page and you’ll see more than 1.6 million passionate fans that will tell you what they love (and what they don’t). The fans identify themselves with prints, and they are passionate about them. They’ll say “My print is African Violet” or “I’m not a Midnight Paisley, but my mother in law is” or “Did you see Cheery Blossoms?! I totally thought of you!” Die-hard fans of the brand will collect every piece possible in their print in an effort to collect as much as they can before the print is retired. I still remember a friend from college saying how her sister was trying to get every piece of Bluebird that she could before it retired and all she was missing was an eyeglass case. Yeah, an eyeglass case. That is how determined and passionate the fans are. From the large duffels to the purses, right down to an eyeglass case. Passion often swings both ways of course, and when they feel let down, they are very vocal about it.
If the walls of Vera Bradley’s annual outlet sale could talk, they would tell tales of women falling head over heels into bag-filled bins, of strollers full of products with no kids in sight, of quick-as-lightning hands grabbing a brand new color that somehow made its way to the outlet sale floor, and of men dutifully following their wives around to make sure they don’t spend that week’s grocery money (true story). There would also be heartwarming stories of women hunting down favorite prints for their friends and squealing when they are found. You would hear about women stalking strangers who just so happen to have a bag that they know their friend would just die over. But above all, there would be stories about friends — bonding over surviving the crowds while finding deals, finding colors and designs that make them smile, completing their collections of their favorite prints.
If Vera Bradley were your best friend, she would be friendly, optimistic, creative, curious, authentic, caring and confident. She would pay attention to detail and might even be called fussy from time to time. Above all, she would love color.
I have a friend named Breea. Other than a love of movies, music, Mexican food and all things British, we love color. She used to tend toward oranges, yellows and pinks. I was usually attracted to blues and greens. She would go for retro stylings, I would go for more classic silhouettes. We both love designs, and we both love Vera Bradley.
Now if I’m with certain friends, they can change my mood and definitely change my facial expressions. They help us feel confident and affirm us. Who a girl’s friends are also says a lot about her.
The purse I carry can change my mood, my walk, even my facial expressions. The right purse can step in for confidence that might be missing at the moment or act as a part of my personality. Oh, I know it’s an inanimate object. The thing is, what a girl carries as a purse says a lot about her. If I’m carrying one of my Vera Bradley bags, I like to think that I am approachable, friendly, happy and confident.
Here’s our Inspired by Vera Bradley Spotify playlist used for writing inspiration.