Small Brand Spotlight: The Elegant Brooklyn-based Handbag Brand That Launched During The Pandemic

by Freya Drohan

This year saw many talented fashion designers lose their jobs, but in a twist of fate, being furloughed and laid off ultimately allowed Argentina-born designer Luciana Rozenberg to fully immerse herself in launching her handbag brand Naissant. The Brooklyn-based creative had been working diligently on the line in the evenings, resolute that there was a market for eco-friendly, versatile, and functional handbags for working professionals that didn’t compromise style. Furthermore, Naissant supports women by donating a percentage of sales towards funding education for the next generation of powerful women. Rozenberg tells The Daily about how the brand was formed and what’s to come. 

What was the impetus for launching Naissant?
One morning, back in 2017, my French roommate Kelly and I were preparing breakfast in the kitchen of our apartment. At the time, Kelly was a consultant working on a project at the Condé Nast offices downtown. That morning, she was carrying her worn-out simple, basic black tote and a reusable tote she got with a purchase from a store. With her eyes on the clock, Kelly explained the large black tote was full of workplace essentials, and she still needed space for her lunch and the rest of her belongings, so she had to take a second bag. Kelly is the type of girl that is fearless, smart, and very successful for her young age. She wants to look stylish and needs her accessories to go with her look. She mentioned she didn’t want to pay the high price of a designer bag, and that the rest of the products out there weren’t stylish enough nor functional. That is when I started researching the market thoroughly and realized that there was a void. There were many women like Kelly out there, wanting accessories that could be both functional and fashionable. Little by little I began working on Naissant…which means ‘rebirth’ as well as ‘evolution’ in French. The name was just perfect for what I aspire my line of handbags to be: in constant evolution.

Luciana Rozenberg (courtesy)

What were you doing before striking out on your own?
I worked for eveningwear brands including Marchesa and THEIA as an embroidery, print, and textile designer. My days were very long. I would work 9-6:30 at my day job and then until midnight or later on Naissant. I needed to save money in order to start my brand, so half of my paychecks would go to my savings account, and the rest for living expenses. I was exhausted but I knew it would pay off. The pandemic accelerated the process though. I got furloughed from my job at THEIA back in March and then laid off. So for the first time, I had the opportunity to work solely on Naissant. I made sure to use the time wisely, and only a few months later, I was ready to launch!

How did your years at other brands help you start your own venture?
I strongly believe that everything has a purpose. My years in eveningwear gave me all the knowledge I needed regarding product development, vendor relationships, wholesale, setting up a business model, and costing. I wouldn’t be the designer I am today without those experiences.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned since launching Naissant?
Embrace the ups and downs and how to pace myself. Enjoy the little wins as they happen—don’t just let them pass. Only a few, if any, entrepreneurs enjoy a straight upward path to success. The little wins give you the strength to continue even when it gets hard. I’ve also learned to move at a slower pace. Take a moment to gain a better perspective about what I’m trying to accomplish, and to react appropriately to potential problems.

 

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How are people finding out about Naissant?
Mostly word of mouth, ads, social media, and influencer partnerships. The downside to being an online direct to consumer brand is that some people still like to see and touch the products in person before buying, so word of mouth, and having our products out in the street will be crucial for our growth.

Tell us about your current offering. What do people need to know?
When I started designing the collection, I knew I wanted to do things differently. What separates Naissant from the competition is the versatility and multi-functional aspects of our products, combined with their design. Almost all of our products are interchangeable, making this collection the only one on the market where the customers can build/change the way the products are used depending on the customers’ needs and wants.

You’re from Argentina, does your heritage and upbringing influence your designs?
My designs are strongly influenced by my upbringing. My parents and my eldest sister are all architects, so I was exposed from a very young age to the design and building process. Watching it evolve from the ground up to the final stages of painting and interior design was always fascinating to me. When I was designing this Fall 2020-21 collection, I had a Pinterest board full of images of construction and structural systems made up of photos that I had collected through my travels and around the city of New York. How glass works with cement or steel, and the elements’ shapes used for their union, is what helped me define the shapes and function of my designs.

Tell us about what values Naissant is committed to.
We are committed to doing things right and to give back. On a personal level, I’ve been interested in sustainability since I was in fashion school. I read every book about the problem of excess and overconsumption. So when I was working on Naissant I knew I was going to do it in a way where I was reducing consumption by creating long-lasting products that could function as different ones. For example, you could purchase the Paloma Bag now, and down the line purchase the wallet, which can be used on its own or added to the Paloma Bag to create a new look.  In addition, I wanted to make sure that the practices used to produce them were going to be as sustainable as possible. All our leathers are by-product and vegetable tanned leathers, certified by the LWG (Leather Working Group). Our linings are all made from 100% organic cotton. Our packaging and packing tape is made from recycled materials. We also partnered with the Carbon Fund, which will help us calculate, reduce, and offset our carbon footprint, making us 100% carbon neutral. I grew up surrounded by successful and smart women that really influenced me, but I also saw how education can change someone’s life. As a business owner, I find it extremely important to give back to women. I want to help give them the opportunity to make their lives what they’ve always dreamed of, and education is a big part of it. Therefore, we will be donating a portion of the proceeds from our sales to the CARE organization in order to help girls and women around the world achieve their goals.

You mention that you’re inspired by powerful women, can you tell us about some notable people who’ve shaped your outlook?
My whole family has amazing women. Smart, successful in their own fields and highly respected by their peers. But my mom in particular is my biggest role model. She is not only one of the kindest people I know, but a great mom and professional. She was one of the people that I would call first to get her opinion on my designs, and even though she is thousands of kilometers away, she would be there, always ready to help me.

(courtesy)

What are the immediate plans for Naissant?
Since we just launched, our immediate goal is to get our product and brand out there in as many ways as possible. We want people to hear about us, learn about our products, design philosophies and ideals. In the coming months we will be introducing new products like a weekender, a backpack, and a series of small accessories and we couldn’t be more excited about introducing them!

What about the future—what’s your ultimate big dream for the brand?
I want Naissant to be the go-to brand for all women that want quality, design, and function for a fair price. As the name says, my goal is to be in constant evolution, evolving with our customers and adjusting to them, and not the other way around.

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