The moment they met, there was an instant business connection: Sophie Miller, a University of Leeds fashion marketing student, immediately understood the mission of Gretchen Bauer, founder of BSWANKY—a US handbag company focused on ethical manufacturing.
The chance meeting happened at a barbecue while Sophie was living in Florida during her gap year. Bauer shared her belief that luxury fashion doesn’t have to come at the high cost of cheap labour. “She had a bag design, a group of women ready to produce products and the passion to shake up the US fashion industry,” Miller remembers. “I was ready to jump in and help.”
Bauer invited her to join the BSWANKY team as an intern. “Sophie was determined and self-driven, two qualities I saw in myself,” said Bauer.
Sophie got to work sourcing BSWANKY’s leather working machinery, leather and retailers. She visited dozens of potential boutiques within a 90-mile radius to see if their displays, décor and merchandising were a fit for BSWANKY, and to gather information on their culture and customer service. “It seemed like she was already a seasoned pro,” Bauer recalls.
A year later, after the team invested hundreds of hours in the fashion start up, Bauer gifted her with a stake in BSWANKY. Bauer even named the company’s iconic signature-shaped handbag for her. “The ‘Sophie’ transforms effortlessly from handbag to backpack and, like Sophie, it stands out in a crowd,” Bauer says. Sophie went on to model for the BSWANKY photo shoot and fly across the pond for BSWANKY’s launch. Sales have been brisk ever since.
Today Sophie has introduced BSWANKY to the UK, with a successful launch at Caragon Boutique in Sussex. And in response to the global pandemic, BSWANKY is giving 20% of its regional sales to FareShare Sussex, a non-profit focused on fighting hunger and food waste.
“Just like our tag line, we want to ‘B’ the difference. And it’s just the beginning. I’m already getting the bags to UK influencers and even international merchandisers including Anthropologie. I’m seizing every opportunity because there’s no limit to where we can take this.”