What started as a tiny homemade operation has become an international must-have! The company's best selling “Batchel” style has graced the pages of Vogue, has been spotted at NY Fashion Week, and has achieved cult status according to The Guardian. Right along with its rise to fame, the Cambridge Satchel has become one of the most knocked-off bags on the market.
The Cambridge Satchel Company was founded in 2008 by Julie Deane and her mother. With no design experience, they started the brand as a way to earn funds to send her children to private school as her six-year-old daughter was being bullied in public school. What started as a tiny operation (Deane sold 2-3 handmade bags a week), has become an international trend!
While much of the popularity of Deane's satchels stems from its classic, logo-free, and uncomplicated design, this is also the reason why the bag is a target of oh-so-many design pirates. When I spoke to Deane last week, she described the mass amount of knockoffs as "heartbreaking and dispiriting," and when I saw a list of how many websites were selling fake Cambridge Satchels, I was shocked. It is an epidemic, and the accuracy of the copies is causing major consumer confusion! Deane told me that "customers were returning satchels to our store because they were falling apart. They had no idea they had purchased fake bags. The websites selling the copies are based on screen shots of our website, and the domain names are so similar to ours."
So, what's the difference between an authentic Cambridge Satchel and a poor-quality copy? Just that. The colors are the same and the overall look is the same, but the quality is far from the same. Unlike the many, many copies on the market, authentic Cambridge Satchels have always been made in the UK. After Deane's first major manufacturer, stole her designs and began selling them for itself, she took manufacturing into her own hands, and now there is a private Cambridge Satchel factory in the UK (near Leicester).
When I asked Deane about trademarks and her logo, she verified that the company has numerous trademarks, but she hates the thought of succumbing to the current trend of bags covered in logos. "Our logo is placed very discretely on the back. Why ruin a perfectly good design and its simplicity by putting branding all over it?" she said. Regarding design piracy, Deane, who sounds so disappointed when she speaks of the subject, says: "It is so upsetting for people who are really passionate. We spend so much time working on how to combine colors and how to style them on the bags, only to have exact copies created in no time - no time."
Despite the very costly and time consuming process of battling the copies, Deane and co. are not letting the piracy stop them. What she has in the works right now: the new pastels range, which follows the brand's extremely popular Fluoro collection. The Batchel retails for under $200. Shop it at Cambridge Satchel's website or at Bloomingdales to ensure authenticity. Also in the works, Cambridge clutches and a new bag shape that Deans says "fits perfectly with our brand." Both are set to debut this year.