The luxury handbag market is increasingly courting millennials. But they aren’t your typical shoppers. “We discovered the new generation of consumers don’t really like to have a lot of logos,” said Wendy Wen '09, the co-founder of Senreve, a luxury handbag company started in November 2016. “They want something that’s high quality…but doesn’t scream flash.”
Unlike handbags that use the company logo as a key design element, Senreve’s line of designer bags limits branding. Their octopus logo does not even make an appearance on the handbags, and the Senreve company name is so subtle, it is hard to locate.
The shift is intentional and the result of hundreds of hours of consumer interviews that Wen and her co-founder Coral Chung conducted before launching Senreve. “Using the brand as a proxy for quality is futile,” Wen explains. “Millennials now have information at their fingertips.” Senreve’s customers can quickly learn about the company’s Florentine crafts workers and the impetus for starting the company: frustration.
As a fashion enthusiast working in finance, Wen would save her earnings to purchase high-end bags but end up exasperated by their lack of compartments, heavy weight, and clunky straps. Wen met Chung in business school and the pair joined forces to capitalize on the “opportunity to create a new generation of luxury that defined the millennial that was not only beautiful but also functional,” said Wen.
Senreve is solely online. “I don’t have a store shelf to fill,” said Wen. “We can stock a few units of cool new colors like lilac, blush, or dandelion yellow, and if they sell out or do really well, we will put in a re-order.” The tactic allows Senreve to sell many more colors that the three to four typical of brick and mortar companies.
Being an online shop also affords Senreve an immediate window into customer buying patterns, which Wen argues improves service. “You get so much more real-time data around what colors they’re clicking on, what questions they’re asking, and you can respond a lot faster,” she said.
Wen also employs several MIT millennials to inform Senreve’s business. Currently, Kelly Barton ’19, Stephanie Li ’20, and Fiona Zhang ’19 serve as remote interns doing tasks from social media content generation to e-commerce negotiations and marketing research. “We start giving them more and more rope as we see them prove themselves,” said Wen.
Each intern meets regularly with the founders to report on project progress and gain valuable advice. “Starting a company is so much easier than going to MIT,” Wen tells them. She also encourages her team to seek career advice from the alumni community.
“You almost have a special calling card when you are a student,” she said. “Alums are always willing to talk to students. Don’t be shy, reach out.”
The Alumni Association now has an online hub for MIT alumni and students to give and seek career advice. Learn more about the MIT Alumni Advisors Hub.