Very busy handbag designer Aimee Kestenberg is getting even busier.
Aimee Kestenberg made a name for herself the industry in 2012 when she launched her eponymous handbag collection into major department stores. Since then, her brand has had an upward trajectory, with revenues doubling year over year and success at retailers like Dillard’s, Von Maur, Lord & Taylor and QVC. The next launch was women’s luggage, bringing fashion and feminine details to what was often considered to be a “unisex industry of sameness.” Today, Aimee Kestenberg’s luggage brand is the top selling women’s fashion luggage in the market, according to the company, and continues to see more opportunity.
“I ventured into luggage initially as a consumer; I wanted something high quality, with designer details, feminine without being girly, and most importantly something affordable,” says Kestenberg. “My options? Zero. So we signed a license with Heritage Travelware, one of the country’s premiere luggage companies, and have since seen enormous growth year over year. My new Star Journey collection sold out immediately upon launching.”
JEWELRY & BABY
With handbags and luggage growing, Aimee recently signed two additional licensing agreements. The first is jewelry, which will encompass both sterling and costume and be a journey back to Aimee’s roots where she focused as a jewelry designer at Parsons School of Deign.
There will be multiple tiers and distribution, starting with sterling silver ranging from $128 to $395. “We will also be launching fine and costume jewelry separately. Everything has a very unique design and we will be launching pieces in new metal finishes that the industry has not seen before. All parts of the jewelry are custom, all the molds are hand carved by our team and one of a kind.
The messaging behind the jewelry designs are inspired by different female traits such as Strength, Love, Devotion, Passion, Friendship, Motherhood etc. We also have collections focused on wellness and energy, which I am particularly excited for.”
The second is a full Baby Lifestyle license inclusive of everything from Baby Bags to Baby Apparel and Accessories. As Kestenerg is a relatively new mom, this one was inevitable…
Both of these new categories, through Lotus Jewelry and AD Sutton & Sons, respectively, will be debuting in Q3 of this year. “We are expanding the brand strategically and methodically, only venturing into spaces where I see major white space and product that doesn’t address the Aimee girl today,” says Kestenberg. “We are confident there is even further expansion and eventually the brand becoming full lifestyle, taking our community and loyal consumer to all parts of her life.”
Beyond brand expansions through licensing partners, the Aimee Kestenberg brand has expanded into other categories internally through her owned parent company, Affordable Luxury Group. Kestenberg started ALG back in 2014 when she envisioned a company larger than just her namesake brand, and wanted a name that really encapsulated what the vision was all about – affordable luxury.
Today, Affordable Luxury Group designs, produces and distributes additional Aimee Kestenberg categories like Small Leather Goods, Travel, Cosmetic Bags, and Technology accessories to name a few.
On top of this, her company Affordable Luxury Group owns other brands as well, most notably American Leather Co. which was launched in the Fall of 2017 with major accolades. Filling a different void in the market, American Leather Co, uses “the softest most natural leather in the world” and retails for under $200, selling in prominent retailers like Dillard’s, Von Maur, Lord & Taylor, as well as QVC where over 150 million homes gain visibility to this new brand. “The success of American Leather Co. is unbelievable” says Aimee Kestenberg. “I credit our company, staff and team – we have assembled a world-class team of people who are passionate, excited about work and love what they do. We really nurture creatives in our company, something we’ve learned through past experience is really missing in the industry.”
In 2017, Affordable Luxury Group went from Licensor to Licensee, and signed two licensing deals with Xcel Brands for their C. Wonder and H Halston brands in various categories. Seeing additional white space while maximizing the brand name recognition and marketing power of Xcel Brands all fits into the strategy of Affordable Luxury Group to be well-diversified across categories, materials, prices and retailers.
“Our plan is to keep growing at the fast, yet healthy rate we are. We are one of the very few millennial-run and owned fashion companies in this industry, and believe that has actually been one of the keys to our success. Generationally, our approach is a bit different, and we believe that is seen and felt through dealings with both retailers, suppliers and employees.”
What’s next for Aimee Kestenberg and her empire? Our guess is we should be grateful there are only 24 hours in a day, otherwise we’d fear what else could be accomplished in a few short years.