Susan Paillassou with Lucque handbags
Creator and founder of Lucque, Susan Paillassou
IT’S IN THE BAG
As Lucque would have it, you can now find your keys and cellphone inside this luxury handbag.
By Arlene Michlin Bronstein, The National Business Post
Women who are obsessed with handbags have a definite reason for their purchases. Some quest for the latest in fashion. Others go for the feel of the fabric or leather. Many choose their bags because they are easy to carry; choosing a small purse that just holds a phone, credit card and maybe a lipstick. And still others want to be able to fit everything they own in their bag. A Lucque (pronounced Luke) handbag can satisfy all of those cravings without the glaring logos seen everywhere. It’s a bag that says, I’m happy with “ME.”
Creator Susan Paillassou loves the challenge of designing bags that appeal to women’s tactile desires, while effectively serving their everyday needs. You can take her versatile bags anywhere. Dress them up. Dress them down. They look great on women in their hip 20s or on chic sophisticates in their 60s and beyond. A Lucque owner defies a single classification. Paillassou describes her bags as “classic with a twist.” She says that they are “sporty, in a Town and Country way.”
She did not come to the business of designing handbags overnight. In fact, she took the long and winding road over many years in many fields. Most people spend their lives thinking about what they want to do. They create scenarios. They imagine how they would make their ideas come to life. But in the real world, only a handful of people actually take the steps necessary to even begin to walk on the path to success. Paillassou is one of the rare human beings that made her dreams a reality. Not once. Not twice, but many times throughout the course of her adult life.
After an undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado she moved on to the Northwestern School of Journalism. As an aspiring writer, she made dreams a reality as a book editor for Little Brown, and she subsequently moved on to Salem Press working with the top fiction and non-fiction authors. After moving to California to open their editorial offices, Paillassou settled happily into the sunny weather and lifestyle, but ultimately realized the west coast was not viable as a publishing hub for advancement.
The next leg of her journey was into the wholesale mortgage industry, as she astutely filled the niche for brokering loans and led the way to the proliferation of brokers statewide. Although the finance world was in stark contrast to her artful side, success in the numbers game satisfied her constant quest of finding new ways of doing business in established fields. After 25 years of building her finance company, she started to feel the ache to explore her creative side again and returned to school for a design degree at UCLA. Some people buy sports cars to quell midlife crisis; instead, Paillassou was re-investing and re-inventing herself once again. “Jack -of -all –trades” and a “cat –with- nine- lives” are descriptive phrases she often uses for herself.
With the finance side of her life still operating, Paillassou segued into the world of Interior Design. Her clients appreciated her ability to create fabulous environments for their homes and offices. Word of mouth helped her to build a reputation for fulfilling her client’s needs and desires, even beyond their imaginations. She became a sought-after design professional in high-end real estate.
Suddenly, one day while working on a Los Angeles home where she was installing a paisley-embossed leather library floor, Paillassou met with her leather supplier to view samples of incredible skins, from hand painted to ornate tooled leather. “I told her that I would love to own a handbag made out of this amazing leather. To my surprise, she threw a leather hide in my direction and challenged me to make a bag myself. I couldn’t resist the challenge or the lure of doing something new.”
Now that she had the material, she started to imagine the shape and size that would fulfill her wish-list for the ideal handbag. But she had no idea how to actually make a bag. As luck would have it, one of her clients, the founder of Isabella Fiore, became a mentor to help cultivate Paillassou’s handbag ideas and graciously pointed her in the direction of her manufacturing resources.
Turning her ideas into a flawlessly engineered purse was not an easy process. There are many aspects and steps to designing and creating the perfect purse and those parameters change with the person who is going to own it. The experience and knowledge she acquired during this initial stage of purse design taught her how to choose the leathers and the palate of colors that would be the best for the season. Today she designs four collections every season. Paillassou says of her collections, “I try to design an every woman style. My bags are not geared to any one demographic.” Lisa Cassel, of Two Gems in Los Angeles, totally agrees. “Susan creates beautiful pieces for the customer who wants both luxury and function. She adds her personal flair to each product, making every handbag both fashion-forward and timeless.”
The ideas for the handbags come from her own experiences and world travels, artistic inspirations and from being a quick-study of other successful designers. Lucque bags come in many shapes and sizes, from totes and satchels, to small, cross-body pouches. No matter what the size, Paillassou chooses only “the best quality leather,” mostly from the same Italian tanneries as Fendi and Gucci. But the actual work of making the bags is done right in Los Angeles by an “old world craftsman” who originally worked for Louis Vuitton. Paillassou really wants to keep the creation of the purses “local.” First, to support the United States economy; and second, so that she can have quick access to the bag production for any modifications needed. She embraces the idea of being an “indie brand.” Marley Stein, a docent at the Milwaukee Art Museum, thinks “Lucque bags are like pieces of art. I love their unique designs.”
What most of Paillassou’s purses have in common, besides the beautiful leathers, are sporty hand-stitching and complete ease of use, from outside phone pockets to large openings. “Ask any woman—there is nothing worse than opening your bag and being unable to find things.” A customer doesn’t need to rummage through a Lucque bag simply due to how it is engineered.” According to Cindy Whyte, a world traveler who has a private purse museum in Scottsdale Arizona, “Lucque purses have a combination of great design and engineering. I really appreciate the ability to be able to quickly find things like my phone or credit cards. The large suede-concealed magnets hold the bag securely shut, but allow for easy access.”
Paillassou designs the interiors of her purses out of a supple, yet durable, colorful suede that have several compartments to help organize the contents of the purse. She often chooses bold colors for the interiors, but keeps the outside of her bags more neutral so they can complement whatever her customer is wearing. She envisions her handbags being able to easily transition from day to night. Something as simple as changing the handle, makes this idea work. Each detail is thoughtfully designed with versatility in mind: both top handles and attachable straps are offered in one bag.
Today the company is five years old and Paillassou is taking the next step to “purse-uing” her notion that customers will want to create their own bag. By booking a private appointment, clients can now meet with Paillassou to create the bag that will be most useful for their lives. They can choose the style, the leather, the inside design and possibly even a beautiful bronze charm that she sculpted to enhance their bag. And not to be left out, She is adding a Man-Bag to her repertoire. Paillassou describes the prototype for this bag as a “really cool rugged look in wrinkled Italian Leather. The hand-stitching is done in brass wire. It organizes a man to help keep his phone, glasses, credit cards and more from getting lost.”
All of these custom options will be available on the website before the end of the year. This build-a-bag concept will truly set her indie brand apart from the rest. She looks forward to helping her customers discover their true “ME.”
People often ask her: where did the name Lucque come from? Paillassou explains that like her purses, she wanted something that was bold and yet simple. She decided since her own last name was French, that she would follow suit with her company’s label. A little deeper probe into the company name revealed that her first design was called “Lucky” and often people think that is the correct pronunciation of the brand!
In truth, it wasn’t just “Lucky” that Paillassou was able to take her idea of creating a special bag and make it a reality. It took her personal experiences in the world of publishing, finance and design. Add to those skills, an artistic talent that reveals itself in her works on paper in paint and charcoal. As a nod to art and women, even the mark of her handbag brand is that of a bronze woman that she sculpted and can also be taken off and worn as a jewelry charm. With the convergence of both sides of Paillassou’s brain, and her experience as a very savvy business woman, Lucque is already a coveted cult brand destined to grow, while being careful to preserve the indie spirit she adores.
Lucque is truly the embodiment of Paillassou’s creative juices and her life-long love of learning and improving of what has come before.
Copyright © 2020. The National Business Post. All rights reserved.
Arlene Michlin Bronstein is a writer and the author of several books: Beautiful Buffets, Beautiful Buffets II, Carlos: Contemporary French Cuisine and My Word is my Bond: Voice’s Inside the Chicago Board of Trade. She was the executive producer of My Word Is My Bond, a PBS special based on her book. Her most recent book, How did Nonnie Get to Heaven? is a children’s book about loss. She is fascinated by the life-events that make each human being a unique storyteller. Arlene lives in Scottsdale Arizona.