While a career in fashion is a glamorous but nebulous goal for many young women, Kelly White approached her dream with laser-like focus. She knew she wanted to create one must-have fashion accessory: handbags.
"You know those dreams people have growing up that seem really unobtainable and are most likely just a dream? This was mine," White says. "I love all accessories because it's the best way to jazz up an outfit. I began researching, sketching and meeting with various professionals in the fashion industry during my college years."
After graduating from the University of Mississippi, White moved to Dallas, where she worked for a boutique. While there, she got a better understanding of the industry and took courses in sewing and business planning. She knew a unique, trendy look would give her the upper hand in a fiercely competitive industry, but keeping the audience's attention would prove to be the real trick of the trade.
White took a cautious approach in building her handbag line. One of her most pressing concerns was finding a seamstress who could keep pace if and when the business expanded. This proved to be challenging.
"I met with a friend of a friend who used to design handbags," White says. "She pointed me in the direction of the lady who ... hand-makes her clutches. When I met with this seamstress, I was very excited, but she couldn't really produce what I had envisioned for my line. I needed more experienced artisans. ... I met with a few other seamstresses in Dallas and Austin (Texas), but kept striking out. That's when I decided to go to New York."
White found a U.S. company that specializes in handbags. After establishing a relationship with skilled craftspeople, White felt optimistic about her business plans.
"I wanted to start a handbag line with a mid-range price point inspired by the stingray look," White says. "I love stingray, but it can be pricey. I started developing unique printed leathers that mimic exotics in a luxe and eye-catching way."
There were two printed styles in White's first two collections: the Lizard, which consists of repeating dots, and the Serpentine, a splattered look on printed suede. Both remain in her collections.
A former graphic designer, White did not take her company's logo lightly.
"I wanted a subtle logo, which I feel like I accomplished because I have many people asking me what the logo means," she says.
She named her brand Kelly Wynne (www.kellywynne.com) as an homage to her grandmother. "Wynne is my middle name, my grandmother's maiden name, and I wanted to incorporate her into my work," White says.
After she established her brand's logo and name, White made her debut in April 2013 at a boutique in Austin, her hometown. Her handbags sold out in three hours.
"I was blown away by how many people came to the party and purchased bags," White says. Kelly Wynne handbags were introduced in New Orleans in October 2013 at a trunk show at Hattie Sparks Boutique. "The reception was great," says boutique owner Hattie Collins Moll. "People were buying multiple bags. I have a couple bags — I carry my big tote every day. They look amazing, and the construction is incredible." White also grows her business through social networking. "I have new followers on Instagram (@shopkellywynne) every day," she says. "It's so much fun to see who is buying my bags and where they live."
From Texas to New York, White has won over audiences nationwide. Her most popular designs include the leopard print, black and camel "Pop the Champagne" shoulder bag and the gold platinum serpentine "Mingle Mingle Mini" clutch, but White has found her design options are limitless.
"I definitely have a great team working to make these bags beautiful for all the fabulous women that want to carry a Kelly Wynne," White says.