How Much Money You Will Need To Start a Handbag Line

Accessories designers are often asking how much money they need to start a handbag line. That is a hard question to answer without knowing specifics of how big they envision their line to be and which channels they want to sell their product. All accessories brands are different– different materials, different approaches, different goals.  But for the sake of this article, let’s put take a look at this little scenario:

  • This new handbag line will have 3 silhouettes with 2 colors offered per style.
  • The line will be made of leather.
  • The samples will be made in domesitcally so they don’t have to worry about import taxes or pricey shipping bills.
  • An average sample maker in the USA (LA or NYC) will charge $300 to make the sample and pattern. (Of course, if the designs are super complex they can be much higher. Sample makers can charge $800-1000/style!)

But,  let’s use $300 as the average.

  • $300 x 3 styles = $900 sampling fees
  • 4 (remaining colors) x $100 (reduced sampling cost for additional colors) = $400
  • $500 – leather costs
  • $100 – lining
  • $200 – custom hardware (zipper pullers, logo plates)
  • $100 – hangtags
  • $300 – professional looking product shots
  • unless you know how to do it yourself or are not selling wholesale)

Total $2,500

Of course, this is a very generic example which does not include any sales outreach beyond the mandatory marketing materials. If you were to decide to do a trade show in NYC, it would run another $6000 before any booth decorations or furniture.

Also remember that this is simply an idea of the cost to create the samples. Website design, editorial photography, line sheets, Facebook ads…. there are additional expenses involved in actually selling your handbag designs.

The additional fee for sampling the other colors offered in the samples is because it’s difficult to sell what you do not have sampled, and it is often better to have more samples than not enough. But you may decide to only sample one colorway for each style, which would reduce costs.

Keep in mind that this scenario represents sampling costs for a line which is made with a more luxurious raw material. If you were making handbags from cotton canvas, the sampling and materials costs would be much lower.

When planning a budget for a new venture, it can be shocking to look at a total figure. But it is always best to have a realistic framework of the expenses you could have to pay and be prepared for them.

That doesn’t mean you should let it scare you. Use this mock up to get an understanding of what a handbag line can truly cost and decide how you would like to proceed in terms of styles and colorways.

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Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of Accessory Business 101, an online consultancy for established and emerging accessory designers. Based in Los Angeles in the Fashion District, Christine enjoys meeting new designers and sharing her extensive knowledge of the accessory world. In her spare time, Christine created Spotlight Accessories in 2012 as a side project to showcase emerging Los Angeles designers and is also co-founder of Fashion Camp Los Angeles. She is mother to two young boys, a passionate (albeit gluten-free) foodie and a hardcore Soul Cycle rider.

20 comments
  1. Avatar
    Lindsey R.

    Hi there,

    Really enjoyed this article! I have o we a decade of experience in the fashion industry, specifically luxury RTW & luxury denim. My experience taught me that if your a new luxury brand entrant, the smartest and best approach is to start with 3 styles, in whatever lane your choosing to go down and expand from there as business progresses in relation to demand and the landscape of the industry in general of course. Given your industry experience, does this same approach apply to luxury handbags? A friend and I are developing a luxury handbag line/company and were curious if it’s also best to start off with about 3 bag styles and perhaps offer each style in about 3 different colors….? Would love to get some insight from you..

    Reply
    • Nicole Giordano
      Nicole Giordano

      Hi Lindsey,
      Yes, I’m a big proponent of starting with less styles and learning what your customer wants before investing in more. I think 3 styles in 3 colors is a great place to start. That said, if major department stores are your goal, right out of the gate, they may want to see more than three styles. But I think a better approach is to start with 3, focus on boutiques, expand your styles, and pitch department stores (if you want them). that way, you can show them that you’re already sold in a variety of boutiques.

      Hope that helps!
      Nicole

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Jessica

    I have yet to find someone in the US to make a pattern and sample for $300. Minimum has been $1500 per bag. Asia is a different story though. Pricing has been $50 or less per bag.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Christine M Syquia

      Hi Jessica – I work with US bag factories every day. I am not paying $1500/bag minimum for samples and pattern. Continue looking for other factories to work with. Good luck!

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    • Casey Cline
      Casey Cline

      Hi Tracilyn- this post should answer your questions about samples and the sample-producing process.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Deena Abdul

    Greetings,

    Thank you for the article posted. It was very informative. My largest obstacle has been the funding for production. I have setup all of the business aspects of the company. My production is all I need. What is your recommendation in finding an investment?

    http://www.deenaabdul.com

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Tracey

    My situation is slightly different. I’m only interested in creating a single style. Would the pricing example you provided apply to one style? How does one go about finding a company to do the sampling? My searches aren’t yielding any direct results.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Alex

    Would it be accurate to assume that every brand basically uses the same source for fasteners (zippers)?

    Reply
  7. Avatar
    T.J.

    Hello,
    I’m glad seeing this information in the internet. I am in the process of creating my own brand! Now I have to do my patterns and samples. There will be a very high-quality leather plus exotic. The proposed price for the pattern is around $ 2000, and for sample about $ 4,000. What do you think about it?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Christine Syquia

      Dear TJ,

      Congratulations on starting your own brand! It is hard to comment on the pricing for a pattern without seeing the intricacy of the style. I hope $2000 is the price for the pattern and sample, and not just the pattern! I think $4000 is high just for a sample especially considering you need 5-10 samples to have a collection but again, if the design is very detailed and intricate, then that might be fair.

      Overall, I think the pricing is on the high side though…

      Reply
  8. Avatar
  9. Avatar
    Carol

    Hi Christine, Carol here.

    I’m looking to start my own line of handbags as well in South Africa. Oversees manufacturers are more reputable and I was wondering if it would be possible to contact a few as I have no idea how to reach them. I’m currently gathering research but it isn’t sufficient at this point and I’m trying to get investors. Please assist in this regard if possible as to what are the most important elements to start off on a solid basis.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Avatar
    Richard Hernandez

    Konnichiwa. I live in Japan and I have never thought I would venture down this road of fashion if it were not for this nagging idea that I had for a men’s handbag. My target market is Japanese men, late teens to older gentlemen. The bag idea I have is unique and I have not found anything that is exact. I believe it will fill the gap where the last men’s handbag idea left off.

    I am an American and do not see this bag being utilized in the West (U.S./Europe). It will serve Japan well because of the culture. Korea and China do not have such a culture as to allow this bag however, when it becomes fashionable in Japan, the other countries tend to follow suit. Do you have any advice for me on possible costs involved with marketing? I plan on having this bag be high-end leather bag so my est. wholesale will be $130 and retail at $285-300 (price in U.S. dollars). I plan on making a B2B (business to business) sale not a B2C (business to customer) sale. I hope to target high department stores with a large distribution chain. My website, when up and running will only be for information not for online sales due to brand integrity. Currently working on design specs. Still early stages for me.

    Reply
  11. Avatar
    Sophie

    Hi Christine, thank you for a very helpful post.
    I’m looking for a manufacturer in NYC who could make some samples/patterns for me. Looking for a very hight quality craftsmanship type of manufacturer.
    Would you have any recommendations by any chance?
    Thank you!
    Sophie

    Reply
  12. Avatar
    elise

    I’m wondering whether the pricing detailed above (i.e. $300-1,000) for sample and pattern is realistic if I’m only trying to make 1 style of handbag in 2-3 different color schemes. I’ve gotten quoted $2,000-4,000 for sample and pattern, which seems way outside even the high price in your article. Is there a large discount because you’re assuming 20 different styles?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      wanda declouette

      I’m looking into starting my own line as well. I’m really glad you asked that question. However it’s been quite long waiting on her response.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Christine

      I was just using $300 as an example. Prices for samples can fluctuate wildly depending on whether they are Made in US or overseas. Another determining factor is how complex your style is. If the style has a lot of handwork then the price is increased of course. Additionally, a sample maker will sometimes decrease the cost per sample if you are brining him a lot of sampling work and/or production orders down the line. I agree that $2000-4000 seems high, but it is hard to say for sure without seeing the designs.

      Reply
  13. Avatar
    Heidi Bonwell

    Christine, I have found your posts most helpful in giving insight as to what to expect when it comes to manufacturing. I have been in business for 7+ years and am wanting to get into manufacturing in the very near future. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Kindly, Heidi

    Reply

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