Year Founded: 1982
Headquarters: Fort Wayne, Indiana, US
Company Website: verabradley.com
History and Background
In 1982, close friends Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller were traveling back from Florida after a “Trunk Show” of their designs when they noticed that all the passengers were carrying black luggage. They decided it was time to add some color to the mix, so they started a luggage and handbag company called Vera Bradley Designs.
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They borrowed money from their husbands, bought fabric, and had a friend create the prototype for their bags. They chose to sell their bags and their clothes separately to see whether or not the bags would be a hit or miss on their own.
Originally, the Vera Bradley brand handled only travel fashion, but the company has stretched to create office supplies, home accessories, as well as products great for gifts. Their designs were said to originally be inspired by French Provencal country fabrics, which are a very specific design type that can be controversial for those looking for a more modern outlook.
The inspiration for the company’s name was after Barbara’s mother, who was said to have a fantastic sense of style. Up until the early 1990s, Vera Bradley was a sales representative for the brand in Miami. She loved what her daughter stood for, and was proud to represent the future of travel fashion.
Many of the items had distinctive florals, paisleys, or geometric patterns with complimentary linings as well as diamond quilting. Commonly in fashion, they were known as a brand for the ‘preppy’ community, but Vera Bradley is a brand for everyone. The founders have made it their mission to empower women, uplifting them through fashion and sustainability.
“We are connected by a common thread. A shared love of making the world a bit brighter each day. Dreamers and doers, creatives and curators, planners and protagonists, we find connection in our colors and power in our prints. It’s what brings us together, and helps you stand out. Together, we are Vera Bradley.” – Vera Bradley Official Website
In just three years, the company topped $1 million in sales. In 1987, Vera Bradley’s founders received one of Ernst & Young’s coveted “Entrepreneur of the Year” Awards. Vera Bradley has always committed to creating change throughout the world with its incredible fundraising, contributions to creating sustainability, and ability to create change in any direction the company chooses to head in.
Barbara Bradley and Patricia R. Miller began raising funds for breast cancer research in 1993 after the loss of their friend Mary Sloan. Sloan was a close friend and one of the company’s first sales representatives.
The company launched its Foundation for Breast Cancer in 1998. The company hosts an annual multi-day fundraising event with tennis, golf as well as other activities. The entire event is wrapped up with a dinner.
In 2015 the annual Fundraiser for Foundation for Breast Cancer was considered the largest amateur woman’s golf and tennis tournament in the country. Since then, they have created the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, which has made $23 million in contributions to date.
Mission and Vision
Vera Bradley has always been known as a company that cares about the environment. With their sustainable designs, being environmentally friendly has always been a goal of the American company.
With their first recycled material, ReActive, they’ve saved more than 6.1 million plastic bottles from going into the oceans and landfills. Vera Bradley is invested in creating a more permanently sustainable world. On their website, they describe their mission as follows: “To connect and empower women and girls in their unique and remarkable journeys.”
Although Vera Bradley has beautifully patterned paisleys and quilted designs, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the colorful luggage. It seems like a lot of people are upset over the designs and don’t believe it should be considered a luxury brand. People have referred to it as “diaper bag-like” and in some cases “hideous”. Luckily this seems to be the minority opinion, as we see Vera Bradley as popping with color.
Other controversies come with their collaboration with Harry Potter. The Harry Potter franchise has always had controversy surrounding the writer and their stances on LGBTQ+ issues. With this being said, people viewed the collab as ‘insensitive’ to that category of people.
Thankfully, Vera Bradley executives have come out with a statement that the collaboration is solely with Warner Bros. and not JK Rowling.
Finally, the brand has had controversy with its 2016 “Modern Feminism” campaign. The campaign featured advertisements and postings around high-traffic areas with captions that were viewed as anti-feminism, all with the hashtag #ItsGoodToBeAGirl. Many women viewed this as an outdated view on feminism issues.
The brand came out with a statement about how they wanted the campaign that explained their original idea. They explained that they wanted to create a more modern take on feminism. Vera Bradley stated they wanted to showcase what was “good about being a woman in society today”.
The bags on their website currently retails in the price range of $10 to $180. Luckily, unlike a few luxury brands, Vera Bradley refuses to let its distinguished style raise the costs of its products. Most if not all Vera Bradley is affordable, as well as has a usually long active life.
Best Known For
Vera Bradley is best known for its colorful patterns and recycled cotton bags. The company has always been environmentally friendly, and they are fantastic at proving you don’t need to sacrifice color or quality for sustainability.
Java Blue is one of their longest-running patterns. It was released in Spring 2006. The pattern mixes blue and dark brown hues.
Pink Elephants, which was released in the winter of 2007, is probably their best-selling breast cancer pattern. It features little pink elephants against a black background.
Heather is another popular pattern, consisting of blue and purple flowers and paisleys. It was released in the Summer of 2013.
Collabs on Collabs
Vera Bradley has had a number of collaborations with big companies and franchises. Their first collab to note is with Disney in 2013. Their first design was of Mickey Mouse, with a follow-up of a recent Little Mermaid set of designs premiered at the beginning of 2022.
Other collaborations were with Harry Potter, which was released in 2020. The designs feature common icons from the series, all wrapped up in the Vera Bradley style.
A future Collab with Star Wars is in the works and is going to be assumingly another fantastic and original design from the environmentally savvy company.
Where to Buy
Vera Bradley bags may be purchased directly from their website or at one of their 154 stores. Vera Bradley bags may also be purchased at department stores, such as JCPenney and Macy’s.
Vera Bradley also has an extensive online shop, where you can shop all of their collections in numerous different patterns and products. They have specific outlet stores in certain states where you can also find Vera Bradley.
Warranty and Care Options
Vera Bradley’s website does not make any mention of a warranty for their bags. However, each bag description includes care details.
Since Vera Bradley is made of sustainable material, it should be taken care of delicately and with good care. If you have a new stain, you should try to get it out as soon as you can, and use a cold water cloth on the material.
Many of Vera Bradley’s bags are made of recycled cotton, so the care includes cold water machine wash on the gentle cycle, and only non-chlorine bleach when needed and line dry.
• Vera Bradley, who the brand is named after, was a model for Elizabeth Arden.
• Vera Bradley Designs was incorporated on November 15, 1982.
• Patricia and Barbara met when Barbara was hanging wallpaper in her new home. Patricia Miller came over and offered to help.
• This lead them to create a wallpapering company called “Up Your Wall”.