Laura Kofoid has spent a lot of time searching for two of life’s smallest essentials. A Harvard business-school grad, onetime brand manager and a retail specialist, Kofoid’s always had a pretty good handle on her life. Not, neccessarily, her personal belongings. “I spent half my life rooting around for my keys and my pen!” she says.
Cut to 2009, when the launch of her and partner Grace Tsao-Wu’s fledgling company, Laudi Vidni, got off the ground. Buying a business idea from a Chicago entrepreneur who sold his brainchild for just one single dollar, the two women launched a premium leather-bag manufacturing company. “We set out to really transform that idea into a business,” she says.
Allowing patrons to either create their own or choose from one of forty different options, Kofoid and company made one element standard—the label’s signature key leash and pen pocket. “It came about because we were thinking about how do you really create a brand for women and not just a brand itself?” she says. Never a huge sucker for logos, Kofoid embraced a different approach. “The idea of the key clasp is something that is so valuable and functional,” she says. It also lends an element of authenticity. “Every day the woman who owns the bag sees ‘Laudi Vidni,’ but nobody else really does,” she says.
For a brand named “individual” backwards, it makes all the sense in the world. “It really always is all about you.”
And all about the leather, of course. Similar in concept to a Lill Studio DIY purse, the main difference between the two is in the premium raw materials used by Laudi Vidni. “I love our leathers,” Kofoid says. “I think that’s what customers really respond to.” Offering forty different options to clients, Kofoid says her leather brings instant luxe. “It’s not only how the leather feels, but how we expect it to hold up and last over time,” she says.
Setting up shop here in Chicago, Kofoid and Tsao-Wu plan to make sure it will. “[Being local] made a lot of business sense,” she says. “With each custom order being unique, it was really important to us to be able to have control,” she says. “To be in the factory, to inspect every bag before it’s sent out.”
They’re actually both so proud of their product, they guarantee they’ll take it back if you don’t love it just as much. “We know we’re asking women to trust a new brand, and trust a new company,” Kofoid says. “We want women to take the risk.”
For some, that risk is simply indecisiveness. “You have two ways of designing your bag,” Kofoid says. “You start with basically a blank slate,” she adds. Or, you can opt for more inspiration. “I bet you ninety percent of the bags we have sold I would have never created on my own,” Kofoid says. “And they look beautiful.” (Nicole Briese)
Laudi Vidni, (800)528-3483, www.laudividni.com