Kathryn Allen founded luxury exotic skin handbag lines Kathryn Allen Couture and Belle Grotto Couture
Gifted with the entrepreneurial gene, fashion enthusiast Kathryn Allen, knew from a young age she wanted to follow in her family’s footsteps and make a name for herself in the business world. Allen began deconstructing vintage handbags and re-making them at age 12.
“I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn’t love handbags. I received my first on Easter when I was four, a small white patent Kelly style bag, and I have been obsessed ever since,” she says. “My grandmother wasn’t happy that I used one of her best bags for my design experiment, but she supported me by going out with me, and shopping vintage markets in order to purchase I could use.”
Allen’s dream became a reality when she launched her own private labeling business for luxury exotic skin handbags, Belle Grotto Couture (BGC), two years ago.
“BGC is one of the best kept secrets in the handbag industry, providing design services, exotic skin and leather material, and production services that specialize in handbags and accessories, custom and handmade in the U.S,” Allen says. “My company has since grown to include an additional line of couture handbags, Kathryn Allen Couture (KAC). The woman, who purchases a Kathryn Allen Couture handbag, is not only buying a true investment bag, one she can carry for a lifetime and also hand down.”
Allen hand-selects all of her materials and makes it a point to be personally involved in the production process of each piece in her collections. The hardware for BGC and KAC are created in Italy at a century old facility and the thread and suede linings of her bags are custom made to match the skins. “It’s the details that matter most, and I really focus on that,” she explains. “This is not an assembly line production process, we are a boutique workshop, and each bag is cut, hand painted and finished.”
According to Allen, what makes BGC and KAC so unique is both the quality and the fact that the lines offer a custom “bespoke” handbag service as well as personal bag fittings, which allows a KAC representative to aid any client in choosing the handbag style and material that best fits their lifestyle.
“The Annabelle handbag has been one of my greatest design successes,” she says, “Ladies love this bag, it is sexy, luxurious, and extremely practical and comes in everything many exotic skins.” Allen says the convenience of her designs attracts customers as well, the Annabelle coming fully equipped with an interior sleeve for an iPad or Kindle and an expandable zipper for increased space.
Currently, Allen’s luxury handbags are being sold on her website and at exclusive boutiques as close as Sunny Daize in Louisville, Kentucky as well as stores in Miami, Naples, Boston, Vail, France and Russia starting at around $800 for a wallet to an average of $2,000 for an exotic skin handbag.
With the addition of the Kathryn Allen Couture luxe line, and the separation of her private label business from her personal line, Allen says she has been able to establish a broader market and client base. “It has been amazing how much exposure the line has recently experienced, both locally and abroad. I was fortunate to be featured in the Luxe Experience fashion show in Louisville last year,” she says.
For BGC and KAC, Allen says there is a lot of exciting things in the near future including the new “Miranda” bag, a very chic clutch with a special hand help strap. Allen’s handbags will be in an event in LA for Fall 2014 and in the “Unbridled Eve” derby event. Thus far, Allen says she is most proud that she has been able to survive and prosper in the luxury handbag industry. She hopes BCG will continue to increase as the most recognized, branded label and KAC will experience tremendous growth while becoming an established brand and player in the luxury business.
For more information on BGC and KAC, go to www.kathrynallen.org.