Esin Akan launched her eponymous London based label in 2012 after forming a wealth of knowledge within the handbag and leather goods industry. A graduate of Central Saint Martins and the London Business School, Akan founded her label after establishing a gap in the market for handbags that offered a stylish solution for busy, independent women.
Esin Akan designs unique, clever and contemporary leather handbags – for urban women – that are easy to transition from work to evening, weekday to weekend.
Where did the idea for Esin Akan London evolve from?
I used to work for Burberry and Anya Hindmarch where I was in charge of design, production and sourcing of leather handbags. It was a great experience and taught me how to produce high quality handbags, however, I felt the customer desires took a backseat in the designs I had seen in the market. I was shopping for a bag that would take me from work to an evening with friends, but I couldn’t find one. I decided to design a bag for that exact purpose during my MBA at London Business School (LBS). This was when the “smart bag” idea was born. The idea earned us the award for Entrepreneur of the Year and we were accepted into a start-up incubator, where we received an office on the LBS campus with access to mentors from the university and industry professionals at our fingertips.
Your – Smart Bags for Smart Women – tag line sends a strong message, what is the significance behind it?
Our customers are independent, urban women who are working professionals by day and have an active social life during evenings and weekends. They have don’t have time to run home after work to prepare for a last minute social invitation, so they need a bag that can easily take them from the office to an event; a bag that could be used during the week, as well as weekend. Our customers appreciate unique designs made with top quality materials at a reasonable price. When they purchase a bag from Esin Akan London, they are purchasing a bag to wear for multiple occasions – from day to evening, winter to summer, and work to social. It is not a bag to stay at the back of one’s wardrobe, it is a bag that fits into our active lifestyle of hardworking women on-the-go.
Celebrities carry your bags, many of the top fashion magazines have featured your range, has there been a “pinch me” moment?
Yes, a memorable moment was the time I met Prince Charles and he complimented the Esin Akan London bag I was carrying. Also, Meghan Markle was recently spotted carrying one of our bags and it was publicised in The Times!
Who has influenced you the most professionally?
I would say my biggest professional influence is Anya Hindmarch. I remember reading an article about her years before I began working with her where she said, “do what you love!” This advice has stuck with me and I have followed those words ever since.
What is the worst business advice you have ever received?
I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by amazing mentors at London Business School, who always gave me great, sensible business advice.
Are you more emotional or rational?
I would say I am naturally more emotional, but becoming more rational due to my experience. I am actively trying to balance my emotional side most times!
How do you stay inspired?
Travelling and socialising are very inspirational activities for me. My core design inspiration comes from people-watching or talking with others to find out about what they like. I also love discovering trends from around the world, visiting tradeshows and trend-setter stores.
What do you never leave home without?
My keys, phone and my phone charger. As I am constantly working on my mobile while I commute, my charger is key!
What’s your first thought when you wake up?
I do enjoy my downtime, so when I manage to get in a full night of rest my first thought is usually, “what time is it?” – to find out if I have time to snooze for just a bit longer!
What is your top tip for a future entrepreneur?
Be passionate about what you do and analyse your idea well before you start: do you have a market for your product/service? How will you sell to this market? What is the cost of making it and how much people are willing to pay for it? Are you be able to compete and how will you prevent big companies copying your idea? Answers to these questions are essential before you start any business.
If you were guaranteed the answer to one question, what would it be?
It would be: Dear Kate Middleton, Your Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, did you like the bag I designed for you? Hope you have received my little gift.