Bag Affair is made by business women for business women

Women in the workforce are as strong as ever, however they lack one basic thing, a practical handbag that actually LOOKS GOOD. Since we couldn’t find such a bag, we went ahead and designed it ourselves. It had to carry our work and day belongings, as well as our dreams and career ambitions.

Business bags for women are still very masculine the their design and often not adapted to the true needs of women. And did you ever find a handbag with for examples a pen holder?

We neither and this is why Bag Affair was created.

Bag Affair was born from an idea of two friends in 2016. Both of us have been working that time in management job, we have been travelling a lot and meeting many clients. Though we figured out we both had the same problem: We have not been able to find the right handbag for our work.

Whenever and wherever we looked for a business bag we only found designs for men, bags not adapted to carry our belongings or square masculine styles with the “feminine touch” which apparently means for most brands to make the same designs in red or purple.

After endless searches we developed the idea to start our own business.

“As there is a demand on the market, yet no offer, let’s do it ourselves.”

Bag Affair as a brand under the company RTFACT Brands was born in 2017. Our goal: Business bags for women.

Yet we did not want any compromise on how, where and under which conditions the bags are made. The fashion industry is a strongly polluting sector. Yet we wanted to create a great brand, we wanted to do it “right”. Under conditions we would work ourselves. As we wanted to visit all workshops we decided quickly that we will only work in Europe.

We started travelling and searching for places which manufacture with fair and good work conditions. But at the same time we worked around the material. We thought about leather. Leather is number one in terms of materials for handbags, it is lasting over years, natural and well-known. But leather has two issues. First of all the animal origin of leather, which is not what we wanted. But there is a bigger problem: The immense pollution and the exposure of workforce to toxic emissions while tanning the leather. Yes, these could be avoided, but only if you can trace all steps of leather manufacturing from animal to hide. Today this is simply impossible, so leather was out. We have been super happy as we found in Portugal not only cork with cotton as alternative, but as well a family owned workplace, working with full transparency and great conditions.

Bossy – Classy – Sassy

While the brand was born in 2017, we started to have first bags in December 2017. Three models, Bossy, Classy and Sassy, all 3 named after “qualities” of business women.

In 2018 we started to develop the business, finding first retailers in France and in Europe. We started as well to do first tradeshows as the Who’s next in Paris and the Neonyt in Berlin. By end of 2018 we launched first accessories as pouches or tablet sleeves, in cork and cork and fennel.

2019 was a year continuing the adventure, getting more and more retailers in Europe but as well in the USA. We participated in further tradeshows as Who’s next, Neonyt and ILM.  With Ugo as a third person our team did grow by September 2019. We launched new models as Savvy, we worked on new designs and more ideas.

And 2020 came ….

And as we all know 2020 did bring a lot of changes. For Bag Affair this was certainly an exceptional year – just not in the positive way.

In January all started well, we did expose at Neonyt Berlin and Who’s next Paris, we visited in February many clients and prospects in France, we planned ahead, had events ready for the full year… and in March all changed.

Of course the situation was new for everyone and complicated. We had no visibility anymore towards the future. All plans made carefully and with a lot of engagement and investment have been senseless. We had do act. We decided to split in June from Ugo, who we just hired in September 2019 – sad but without a choice.

But 2020 did bring more changes: instead of 2 co-founders by September 2020 I have been alone. Though the company is still called RTfact, the T is not there anymore. For personal and absolutely understandable reasons she left the company.

Further 2020 was a very difficult year in terms of sales. Most turnover is generated B2B at Bag Affair. We believe that sales in stores where customers can see and touch the bags are important. And we believe in local stores to keep our city centres alive. Though since 2020 those stores have been impacted strongly, competing even more against big online stores. We did and still do our best to support them as we can, yet our turnover has been strongly impacted as well.

Standing up again in 2021

I will not lie (yes since 2021 it was and I suddenly) but 2020 was complicated. Yet 2021 was not all easy. But I truly believe there is no choice than going further, reinventing things, doing things different and innovating. And this is what I did!

In 2021 Pollyanna joined the team for 1.5 years of alternance. We launched a completely new collection made of a new developed material of cork and linen, called CORKonLINEN. This material is unique and patented. And it allowed us to launch a new collection, fully made in France.

This new workshop allowed us to diversify the offer while of course keeping our partners in Portugal.

The Made in France collection was launched with a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule in June 2021. And following this success we even launched a second product on Ulule, a feminist agenda together with Marine Bruneau from Egaluce by end of the year.

2022 – Bag Affair goes Paris

In January 2022 Bag Affair integrated La Caserne, the accelerator of sustainable fashion in Europe which is in Paris. More precisely in an old firemen barrack – called “caserne” in French, a entirely renovated beautiful place and the perfect place to network and meet other ethical and sustainable, innovative new brands in the fashion sector. This network allowed us as well to participate twice in sales session in Printemps Haussmann. Not only great to meet customers directly, but as well an amazing exposure for the brand.

Pollyanna left after an amazing job in summer 2022 and Emma joined the team for a period of one year for an alternance.

2023 – new year, new challenges, projects and more

2023 is still ongoing but in the beginning of the year we already had an amazing project: together with 8 other bag brands from La Caserne we opened a pop-up store for one month in Paris, called MaroMaro. An amazing experience to test store handling, meetings customers and getting direct feedback. Plus as we handled all with the 9 brands we also all really worked well together and there are certainly more projects to come.