More than 11 years ago, Brisbane duo Lou Kendall and Heidi Bailey saw an opportunity. Running a small party plan operation, brightly coloured handbags were always a sell-out. “This was when coloured handbags hadn’t really been done,” Lou says. “Clients would often ring us to ask if we had more of that yellow or hot pink handbag.”
Seeing a gap in the market and possessing a desire for design, the pair acted fast. “We jumped on a plane to Hong Kong, found a supplier and started designing colourful handbags,” Lou said. Now a sole handbag business, they rebranded as Louenhide, a clever combination of both their first names. Bright pops of colour have become synonymous with the brand, making its designs easily recognisable. The range now includes high quality shoes, accessories and wallets as well as the same signature handbags. Each item is carefully manufactured and designed with attention to quality and workmanship. Affordable yet luxurious, the brand delivers everyday elegance for all women.
This journey to accessory success began in 2006. At the time, they were both pregnant — Lou with her third child and Heidi her second. Beyond the first trip to Hong Kong, turning their vision into a reality required hard work and tenacity. “We hit the pavement door knocking with newborns under our arms to try and get the shops to stock us,” Lou said. “Many of them did and were all lovely.” Soon, Lou and Heidi were taking over Lou’s husband’s warehouse and merchant machines. “He called us locusts because we would swoop in, take over his shop and swoop out,” Lou said. With the business expanding, the pair realised they needed to rent their own space and give the venture room to grow.
From the early days, Lou and Heidi’s products were well received. Lou recalls walking into a trade fair, which had just opened for the day. Louenhide products were top of many people’s must have list. “There was a queue of shop buyers who wanted to become stockists. I had to drop my coffee and run!” A larger warehouse and, of course, more stock were the next steps to launching the brand and meeting the demand. Louenhide’s designs were inspired by everyday people. Market research is taken seriously with real world examples informing the designs. “We sometimes just go to a shopping centre, sit and watch for hours, looking at what’s working for some and what’s not,” Lou said. “We’ve also been known to go to airports at peak times.” Classical quality and fashion forward designs are the heart of Louenhide.
From simple beginnings as a boutique label, Louenhide has expanded well beyond a two-woman band. Louenhide can be found in more than 500 retailers throughout Australia, and a further 500 international retailers, across the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Lou and Heidi, though, do not plan to slow down. “We are very much head down and full throttle right now,” Lou said. “There is something exciting in the pipeline, but I can’t tell!”