The Balancing Act
A conversation with Laura Vogel, a full-time student who started a designer handbag line
At 13, Laura Vogel was scouted by a modeling agency at a Walgreens in suburban Highlands Ranch, Colorado. That began a fascination with the fashion industry. From photoshoots in Hollywood to Mexico City, the now senior at the University of Colorado Boulder went from modeling products to creating her own perfect merger of her fashion sensibility and business major.
It all happened in Spring 2019, when Vogel was spending her semester in Milan. She sparked up a conversation with her neighbor who operated a motorcycle repair company next to her flat.
Enticed by the leathers his company was using on its seats, she asked what could be done with the scraps. The quality materials inspired her handbag concept, leading to many meetings in broken English and Italian with local manufacturers through the connection of her Italian neighbors.
This exploration/Italian adventure eventually led her to Antonio, her leather crafter whose clients include Gucci, Versace and Valentino to name a few. By February 2020, it all came together when she launched her Milan-crafted leather shoulder bags under the brand name Vogelle.
I caught up with Vogel for a Q&A to learn more about her design inspiration behind the ‘90s-chic bags and how she operates a business as a student.
Describe your style.
I’d say my style is very European and feminine. Whenever I am in Milan or Paris, I always set aside time to check out a few thrift shops to find vintage denim jackets and worn out jeans. I love combining old and new pieces that reflect how I am feeling that day.
What drew you to becoming involved in the fashion industry?
Fashion is truly an art form– it’s a way to express yourself. Each editorial reflects a piece of history, a moment in time, or the feelings of an individual. As I continued to model, I absolutely fell in love with all of the different people I worked with. It was quite astonishing, really, to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. I also learned so much about business and how to sell a story.
What inspired the bags’ design?
While I was living in Europe and traveling extensively, I noticed a huge difference in the handbags that women carry. Women in America typically carry big bags with everything that we could possibly need in them, right? We have all been that girl who spends ten minutes digging through her purse trying to find her keys– What’s the point? In Europe women of all ages typically carry pretty small purses. They have their credit card holder, lipstick, cell phone, house keys and maybe one or two other things and that’s it. Life is simple! This pushed me to start thinking smaller in my handbag design process.
How are your bags a reflection of your design style?
They are such a statement piece while also being so simple. That is what I love most about them. These bags are minimalistic, chic and high-quality.
How do you manage as a full-time student and owning your own business?
I am a double business major at CU Boulder, I work at the Nordstrom in Cherry Creek three days a week and I am trying to get this business up and running. I am so passionate about Vogelle and I am so excited thinking about what this will look like when I graduate from college and put my all into this business.
Throughout my semester last Fall, I was mailing drawings to my manufacturer, Antonio, and sending him cheap bags of similar designs that I would order on ASOS and Amazon. We would send videos back and forth of leather colors and textures, as well as the different metal pieces that I could choose from. It was such a fun design process and made me so excited about where this could go.
In January, I flew to Milan with a bunch of empty suitcases and brought back my very first order. Vogelle officially launched on February 5 and I am already sold out of the white purse.
What are your plans post-graduate?
After I graduate, I hope to take some time and give my all to Vogelle. Throughout college I always thought I would graduate and get a normal full-time job like everyone else, but I really have created an international fashion brand which has been my dream for as long as I can remember.
Can you divulge on any upcoming projects in regards to your business?
I am currently meeting with a few local retailers around Boulder and Denver to make my purses more accessible. I have also been working with Antonio, my manufacturer, on designs for card holders and a possible summer color for the shoulder purse design. The cardholders will come in white, black and camel saffiano leather and are completely handmade in Milan, Italy. I can say that there will also be a new color of the Vogelle purse, maybe even in another texture!