We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Tara Sauvage a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Tara, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Tell us about you and your brand.
I had worked as a footwear designer, handbag, and fashion accessories designer for about 8 years. We moved to Seattle from Los Angeles and I had a hard time finding a new job in fashion. I finally got hired by a footwear company designing handbags that got bought out by Steve Madden, and then found myself without a job. I decided to start my own brand of handbags. I wanted to do leather bags so to sharpen my skills in that category I signed up for a leather goods design course in Milan, Itay. At that point in time, I had never had any formal training in fashion or design at all. I had a B.A. in business and everything about the fashion industry I had learned on the job. I went to Milan for about 6 or 7 weeks for the course. It was pretty interesting. I learned about leather and handbag pattern making. Of course, I did not want to be a pattern maker for handbags, but it gave me more insight into the industry. I went back home to the USA and started designing on the kitchen table. It took a while to find a factory that could make the quality of bags I wanted. I found my factory by overhearing a successful business owner drop their factory name in a conversation. I googled them and decided to give them a try. My first order was 300 bags of the same color/same style. The factory had very high minimum order quantities so I ended up with 300 red patent leather bags for my first production run. That was not the ideal situation, but it was all I could afford to produce. My biggest hurdle was not the design or executive, it was having the money to run production.
Tara, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I named the brand Rocco & Dante handbags after my two pugs, Rocco and Dante. I did not want to name the brand my own name because I thought that sounded too vain, but in hindsight, I probably should have named the brand after myself because I have a good name for a brand, but I was always a designer behind a brand so even with my own label, I did not want to name it after myself. I can always change my mind (:
What sets my brand apart is the quality of the products. You will not find this type of quality leather goods on the market today for the prices I offer. I have positioned the brand as direct to consumer (DTC) so we are not in a lot of retail stores, which cuts out the middle man and passes the savings directly on to the consumer so the price point is amazing.
My designs are unique and stand out by the custom hardware and design features that are not found on other bags. The bags are very well made. I have customers that have been wearing the same bag for several years and it still looks great.
We have recently teamed up with Joey Energy for the consumer to have the option to turn their Rocco & Dante bag into a SmartBag. Joey Energy is a phone charger, security feature, and interior light for handbags and can be added to any purchase of a Rocco & Dante bag. It is an awesome feature for women on the go or for travel. www.joeyenergy.com
How did you build your audience on social media?
When I started Facebook was popular. In the beginning of the brand, I used Facebook to spread the word and would sell quite a few bags by Facebook alone. It was a great tool for letting people know about sample sales, etc. Now you have to really have a huge budget to be successful on social media. I still use Facebook but it is not lucrative now. I would recommend that brands use Instagram and Tiktok now. I am on Instagram, but I have not found myself using Tiktok yet. I still just think of it as teens dancing those weird dances during quarantine. Right now I am focused on building the brand on Linkedin.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I started the brand in Seattle in 2009 and then it was closed in Dec. 2012 due to the Great Recession. That was really hard, it was like losing a child to close the company. I moved from Seattle to San Diego with my family to follow new careers and better opportunities. I decided to relaunch the brand during Covid in 2020. I needed something positive to focus on during that time. I designed a new logo and launched some fresh new modern designs.
In 2021 we went into collaboration with Joey Energy to add Smartbag technology to the bags. I think it is important to keep up with the latest trends and changes in the industry and bringing this modern technology to our bags was the perfect timing.
- Website: www.roccodante.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roccodantebags/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roccoanddante
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/roccodantebag/
- Other: www.joeyenergy.com
Larae Lobdell and Tara Sauvage