• Laura Dotolo

Introducing Cane Island Accessories


Working with a variety of talented innovators, Clutchbags.com has recently sat down with some of its collaborators to explore their inspirations and designs. This week, we interviewed designer Gail Wozenski, the woman behind the leather work bag brand, Cane Island Accessories.

Company: Cane Island Accessories Production: Made In NYC

Do you have any design background? If so, what experiences have you had that led you to this point?

Absolutely no formal design training — it’s a simple story. I followed an idea/concept that I loved about starting a business selling bags that I would be proud of and love wearing. I love leather products and favor unique, artisan goods and accessories. In addition, I like practical but beautiful things, which sometimes can be luxurious. Searching through websites that offered support in starting your own company, Clutch Made stood out as a company that would be a good fit for me. I still remember the phrase, ”The Factory that you can talk to.” I also liked the team orientation on the website featuring Laura Dotolo and the Team including the artisans. It resonated with me.

The first few design consultations with Laura on mood boards were easy for her, but hard for me. I had not used this sort of plarform before and had never really thought about things she was asking me to make boards about. I admit to thinking 'who cares what’s in your bag? How am I going to make a board on this?' Well, I hung in there, trusting the process and Laura. The design calls were more engaging for me. Eventually, after 4 or 5 months and a great deal of thought, I got the tote prototype delivered via UPS. I remember that afternoon vividly. I literally shut my eyes, and stood in front of the box thinking, this is a turning point, as I had no idea of the tote quality and artisanship. I opened the box carefully and looked at the tote. The workmanship was fabulous — even better than I had envisioned. We went on to production and the website went live this July 2018.

How did you decide to start making accessories?

This is an interesting question. Like many things, I started small. I wanted to make a bag I loved and would be proud of. A small investment with Laura and the appointments came next. The design became a passion, the sourcing decisions were exciting, and naming the company was harder than naming three children. I got through the legal work, far less fun that the design and manufacturing process for me.

Is this your first time making accessories? If so, what important lessons have you learned from this process? If not, what skills did you bring in to creating this line of handbags?

Yes. It has been a tremendous learning process and adventure. Firstly, I wanted to design a product that I loved and I would be proud of. I knew that would give me the inspiration to continue and persevere. I also love our website. Our daughter is the main model and I will always cherish the day we spent together on the photo shoot. Maybe it’s similar to “If you build it they will come from Field of Dreams."

Secondly, every detail is important. Don’t assume anything in communications. I tried to put the major decisions in emails so people would have a record and could refer to the specs. After this experience, I question how technical products are made successfully. It must be very iterative!

Thirdly, I have a pretty accurate understanding of what I don’t know (which is a lot in this area) so my close friends and family gave me a lot of very important feedback, which I listened to. Laura was honest with me, which I needed as well. She was direct when an idea would not work or would add too much to the product cost, which I appreciated.

Finally, although there are clearly more lessons, "don’t overthink" would be the best overview. There are so many decisions when starting a company. In most cases, you can adjust if something is not working. Just go for it.

Why did you choose to make in the USA?

The idea of "made in NYC" is appealing to me. The quality of the artisans is superior, the proximity to our home in Connecticut is a plus, and I was not interested in a significantly lower cost model with less than superior quality.

Why did you choose this particular market of working women?

Selecting full grain leather and grade A (Highest quality) cane drove the price up. The size 14W x 10H x 4.5D also meant a lot of leather. Finally, there is a great deal of intricate stitching that added to the cost. All this added up to a luxurious bag that is high end and the superior quality speaks for itself.

Why did you choose to make this particular style of handbags?

I wanted a mid-size tote that could carry a MacBook pro or its equivalent so women could carry one bag with their essentials, if they chose

to. I also wanted easy access to my phone, so we designed the side pockets. Finally, the leather and cane are such a beautiful combination, and so unique and rich.

Have you thought about creating men’s accessories? Why or why not?

Possibly, after we have more experience I may design a larger bag, but I would prefer to focus on women’s bags and add a few colors to our signature design and then design a smaller cross body bag.

What do you love most about design/accessories/manufacturing your own line?

It is a passion. I wake up thinking about a detail with the company and can’t wait to get going with a marketing call or tweaking something on the website. Honestly, I also enjoy the positive feedback from customers and the general public. The bags do speak for themselves, and people love them. I also enjoy participating in artisan events such as craft shows and galleries. Finally, I have given several as gifts to life long friends, family members and non profits which has given me tremendous joy.

The Cane Island tote is available to shop @ clutchbags.com.

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