By Carlyn Worthy ’12
When it comes to design, Julia Stackler ’03 has it in the bag.
Communication alumna Julia Stackler ’03 has garnered success in doing what she loves most—creating handbags. She launched Darlington Originals, a custom leather handbag company, in December 2011, and hasn’t looked back since.
Stackler relocated to Champaign, Ill., after accepting a job offer with one of the University of Illinois’ marketing departments. However, in 2009, she got an itch to start her own business, stating that she grew tired of working for other people.
Pursuing entrepreneurship can be a scary process and often involves great risk. In preparation for her new venture, Stackler earned an MBA at the University of Illinois. She felt with a strong foundation in business, she would increase her chances of success.
When asked why handbags, she says, “I felt like handbags were a good outlet to give people a way to design for themselves. It’s different than clothing. That challenge is taken out of the equation.” Her company is one of only a few in the country that offer custom leather handbags.
Darlington Originals was created with a “Style of the Month” concept in mind. A new style is released every month and remains on the website for three months. The interactive website allows every customer to select a style, a leather or suede exterior, and a colorful print for the interior. Customers also have the option of saving their creations to personal wish lists. These wish lists can be used for inspiration in creating your own product or, if you like what you see, you can purchase that product.
Stackler also takes a very hands-on approach to producing her materials. In addition to marketing and managing the company website, she measures and cuts the pieces that will go into constructing the handbag. Once the pieces are ready, they are shipped to an outside contractor that will finish the job. The completed handbag is then shipped to the customer.
Darlington Originals is unique in many aspects. Most entrepreneurs in the business steer clear of leather working, because it has become an endangered art. It can be difficult to find good manufacturers who will produce the quantities needed for a small business. Thankfully, Stackler has entrusted her products to a small leather manufacturer in Indiana.
With the help of Rose Darling—a character created by Stackler who serves as a spokeswoman for the site—Stackler remains connected with her customers and the latest trends in the industry through blogging and maintaining active profiles on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
“I’m just kind of a fashionista I guess. I’m constantly looking at magazines and blogs to see what people are wearing from an artistic standpoint,” she says.
Stackler has considered expanding the business and hopes to incorporate other leather accessories.
“I think that’s the important part of where my business is going, it should still incorporate the creative aspect,” she says. “Anyone can go to the store and buy the latest Coach bag—they have beautiful stuff—but what’s more interesting is being able to say you designed the bag that you’re wearing.”
While attending Loyola, Stackler was a staff writer for The Maroon, Loyola’s award-winning weekly student newspaper, and The Wolf magazine. She cites the education she received from the School of Mass Communication as a major contributor to her success.
“I would not have been able to do everything I did if I didn’t have a communication degree from Loyola. I feel strongly about that,” Stackler says. “I think it’s more of my communication degree than my MBA that helped me to understand what I’m doing, to think about it holistically. I learned a lot of lessons that I still think about now. What I learned was invaluable.”
To purchase a Darlington Originals custom handbag, visit www.darlingtonoriginals.com. For updates and special offers, you can “like” Darlington Originals on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DarlingtonOriginals or follow Darlington Originals on Twitter @mydarlington
Carlyn Worthy ’12 (communication) worked as the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during the spring 2012 semester.
View the complete summer 2012 issue of LOYNO.