This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council’s 2019 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
Aimee Kestenberg, the brand, provides affordable luxury handbags and accessories. Recently, the Aimee Kestenberg Milan Bum Bag won an Accessories Council Design Excellence Award in the New Product Development (NPD) Growth Driver category. We visited the Affordable Luxury Group to learn more about Kestenberg, her brand, and to get some advice as fashion students.
We had the privilege to sit down with Elan and with Marketing Director Kimberly Stanfel, an LIM College alumna. The group houses three brands, one of which is Aimee Kestenberg. Although we did not meet with Aimee, creator of her brand, speaking with Elan and Kimberly gave us a lot of insight and advice into their brand and the industry.
Elan discussed that one of Kestenberg’s biggest motivations was her father. Her family, like most, weren’t able to spend thousands on luxury goods, and she felt she could offer something of the same quality and luxury at a far more affordable price. Kestenberg has a close relationship with her family, so moving from Australia to New York City was a big culture shock. At first, she aspired to work in industrial design. But Project Runway made her fall in love with fashion, so she applied and was accepted to Parsons. This put her on her path to a successful career.
Elan explained that his wife’s idea for affordable luxury originated with her love of couture with a need for practicality. She wanted to make luxurious items that many people could afford. “The original idea was putting out something really high-end, really beautiful, really original, but something that was actually affordable for people in the $200’s,” Elan explained. “So, really redefining what affordable luxury meant to her.” Kestenberg wanted to make creative high-end designs at a lower cost without sacrificing quality. Elan told us they take their time with research to find a manufacturer that fits their criteria. He stressed that the company invests time into the management and numbers side of the brand to achieve affordable luxury.
With sustainability becoming of major interest to consumers, we asked Elan his thoughts on this topic: “I always defer to the largest brands and companies in the industry to lead the way,” he mentioned. Elan believes large companies like LVMH, Tapestry, Capri Holdings, etc. need to set the path and take on more sustainable practices first, setting an example for smaller brands and companies to follow. For fashion to become more sustainable overall, it starts with the larger companies.
Elan and Kimberly offered good advice for young fashion students. He emphasized, “there are no rules” when it comes to business. Some may not realize it, but entrepreneurs have to be able to have a different mindset that is flexible and creative. Kimberly told us to intern everywhere, even at places that don’t necessarily connect directly with your dream job—because the experience is key. They told us to try to build your career within a smaller company because there is always room to grow.
Overall, being able to talk with Elan and Kimberly was a great experience. They were very welcoming and helped us a lot with understanding the business. We really enjoyed how proud and determined they were with their company, and we appreciate the advice they gave us. Aimee Kestenberg’s line will always be a brand we follow.