This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2020 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Honors Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
Etoile’s Lucille Mini Ostrich Tote won the Accessories Council 2020 Design Excellence Award for the “Handbag over $1,000” category. The tote, made of ethically-raised South African Ostrich leather, retails at $1,595 and is available in five colors: black, dove grey, mod blue, rum brown, and violet.
Our interview jitters had begun kicking in right as Grande joined the video call. Her welcoming spirit immediately took those worries away. It was time to explore the fabulous brand that is Etoile by asking Ms. Grande all of our questions.
SO: Why did you choose to name your company the French word for star?
AG: I think of stars as a positive symbol. Etoile always aims to meet a gold-star standard, the idea of shining our brightest always influences the brand’s choices.
MB: How did your experience in the fashion industry help you develop your company?
AG: There is always room to grow in the fashion industry. Even with my existing experience, I realized there was much more to learn in order to run an efficient business. Once I started Etoile, I deepened my understanding of how sales, management, inventory, product development all work in the growth of a successful company.
SO: What made you move to Dallas and build your brand there? Also, what made you choose Las Vegas as a second location for your shop?
AG: The best move was to run Etoile from the United States because that is where most of my customers live. I ultimately decided on Dallas because of my family and love for the state of Texas. When it was time to expand the business, Las Vegas made sense as it provided Etoile with an opportunity to spread the company’s name globally and meet many new customers due to the large number of tourists in the area.
MB: How did you feel when the Lucille Ostrich Tote was selected as a DEA winner? What was the inspiration for the bag?
AG: I felt very proud since Etoile is an up-and-coming non-runway brand founded in 2016. It was an outstanding honor to even be recognized as a finalist, let alone the winner. Inspiration for the tote came from the chaotic mess of 2020. The vision of “quiet luxury” was achieved with the long-lasting and timeless ostrich material and design of this tote.
SO: What brings you inspiration for your products?
AG: The entire brand started with me needing a bag for travel. I strive for the designs to be efficient while still looking amazing, and find inspiration for colors and fabrics from different sources every season.
MB: Considering it costs more money to make products in the US, why is it important that you do?
AG: I want to raise the standard of “made in America.” Certain European countries such as “made in Italy,” carry a global recognition for the highest standards of craftmanship both in the fashion industry and with the consumers. American talent should be recognized and used more. One solution for this is to introduce and then pass on the craft from generation to generation in Italy. If talented Americans are able to follow the footsteps of European artisans, over time luxury products made in the USA can absolutely have the same recognition of high quality as Italy or France.
SO: What is next for etoile? Would you ever consider expanding your brand?
AG: Etoile has a ten-year plan with the goal of building a global, well-rounded presence with more categories than our current offering of handbags. A third store will be opening in Aspen February 2021.
MB: Is Etoile available for wholesale?
AG: Etoile has three selling models: wholesale, which is a major part of the brand; direct, which is online or in-person sales; and corporate gift sales.
SO: What advice would you give to students starting their journey in the fashion industry?
AG: Always stay engaged in your industry. It is so important to be involved and gain knowledge that is aligned with your passions.
Our interview with Annye Grande gave us so much insight. Both of us are excited to see what the future holds for Etoile and are new fans of the company and its products!