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Founder of her namesake accessories label ANNA ENGELHARDT


One day Jana and I spottet a colleague sporting a beautifully crafted leather bag which was designed in such a simple and contemporary way we thought for a moment – oh wait, we need this bag. It was simply close to perfection. After knowing it came from a young designer named Anna giving her life up in Italy to pursue her passion and her dream to design and sell handbags under her name, we couldn't stop wondering what drives her and what her story was. So here you go!

Anna studied fashion design at AMD Hamburg, worked as a design assistant at Joop! for almost three years. After a language course in Italy got a job marketing at LOUISAVIAROMA and after that she enrolled in a course that teaches old craft techniques for working with leather.  After that she returned to Germany to launch her own label with only 28.

The market more than supersaturated with accessories labels. Why have you founded one anyway?

The reason was my passion for craftsmanship and design as well as my love for the material leather, so I had this urge to just do it. There is many different markets out there full of excellent products but still, this shouldn’t scare you. You have to go after what your heart truly beats for.

What would you advise someone that wants to launch their own label?

Before you start, take a very good look at the market. To me it was vital to do an analysis of the market. Then think where you want to exactly place your product. Knowing this is you’ve already got half of your business plan.

What else is important?

Not only the pure design aspect is vital but also marketing is a truly important area that you most likely learn best in big companies. So do check it out before you start your own business.

Where did you have the funds from to start your business?

Well, very classic: I went to my bank with a business plan, introduced my vision for my label and got the loan which I could start my business with. Getting the machines was one of the biggest investments by the way.

Do you have sleepless nights because of the loan?

Of course, I do but there are also days when I truly know this was the absolute right decision. For example, when I walk to my atelier in the morning and I feel the pure excitement on the way already, I know I did everything right.

What did you learn by writing a business plan?

You don’t have to do every single thing by yourself, you just have to be smart about where to get help. To me the whole numbers part was so tricky, but I got help from the the German chamber of commerce.

What did you give up for your label?

A secure position with a secure income – and of course my whole entire life in Italy which was so hard for me first because that was always what I wanted: living and working in Italy but I have to admit I also didn’t see me as a freelancer working there.

You worked in marketing at LOUISAVIAROMA before. How did you find out, which was the right path for you to go into?

I have tried a lot of different things so that is how I found out what the „right thing“ is but you kow what, maybe this is also going to change in the next years. I always got lucky meeting very inspiring women, especially in Italy, that always gave me the feeling I could do whatever I want!  

What did you learn from the Italian ladies? How is the Italian empowerment among women different?

It was not so much of an „elbow-mentality“ there as I was used to it from Germany, but of course, this depends on the people you meet and know. But I did learn to exactly go after something I want and clearly focus on my goal never being afraid to show what I am doing and capable of. In my opinion it depends on yourself a lot too, if you are open and positive towards other women, the power among women can go places.

What is your daily struggle?

The discipline to have and to keep a regulated day with mindful breaks. As a freelancer I am always there and reachable at all times. Sometimes it’s getting super late and then it’s so tough to get up early.

How do you deal with doubts?

I try not to give in when doubts come along, I try to just keep going. I try to look forward and concentrate on the thing I am focusing at the moment or my overall goal.

You have gotten tremendous support of your family and friends when starting out. What would you tell someone who doesn’t have the support at all?  

Start with tiny steps and keep going and pushing yourself constantly. Find you own strengths and go after things you are comfortable doing and you are trusting yourself with. This is what I do as well regardless of the support of my family because at the end of the day I am responsible on my own.

You are a one woman show. What is the most difficult thing about it?

As a sole proprietor you have to know who can help you out at times and I can’t never be scared of stupid questions.

What does no one tell you when founding a label?

…that the design part is a super tiny part of the whole thing. And that you have to look way more towards the right technique and the right marketing.

Did you stumble at the beginning?

Well, my label is just starting out and yes, here and there I still stumble. The exchange with other designers helps me as well. Also staying informed with books, social media, founder’s meetings or the chamber of commerce helps a lot in terms of where I want to go and what I think is the right direction.

Was there a time where you wanted to give up?

I often question if I went the right way but every time I get the feedback of my customers I know it’s all worth it. Plus, I put so much money, time and passion in my project that I simply cannot give up.

When someone does this (working independently, getting a loan, founding a label, etc.) what do you have to bring to the table to be successful at it?

You have to be ambitious, patient, you have got to have grit and a huge passion for what you are doing.

The best advice you have ever received?

I got it from a woman I met in a café during the Pitti fair in Florence. She was from London and she kind of overheard my friend and I talking over my decision whether to move back to Germany and launch my own label or not. She suddenly asked me: Do you have one reason to not do it? And somehow, I couldn’t give her a reason. So she started telling me that she works with young labels, showing me all this huge excel files and urged me to do an analysis of my target group. Up until today writing down where I want to go with my product, what competitors there are and which price they have helps me to work and realize my dream.

What mistakes did you make that you learned from?

In many situations I was too much of an over thinker – from choosing my logo to decorating my atelier. This cost me a lot of nerves. I know now that the first gut feeling is mostly the right one.  

How do you accomplish your daily goals?

I start with a to do list – religiously every day! I would say it’s almost crazy but without the to-do list I can’t function.

Are you a perfectionist or a better done than perfect-person?

I am more the perfectionist, but I do admit because of that I sometimes stand in my own way when it comes to decisions. I want to craft every product in the most excellent way possible that my customers are truly happy. This stamina wouldn’t be possible without perfectionism.


by Teresa