Bags of Success

The story behind Abaccino handbags

It was a secret but it´s a simple truth: handbags and not diamonds are a woman’s best friend. This conclusion is drawn by a social survey, recently published in Germany. Accordingly, an average European lady has from five to 20 bags in her closet, a stock which grows each year by at least 20 percent. Absolute record holders in hoarding handbags are the Italians. Actually they peak to 60 bags per woman and wardrobe. Frightening, isn’t it? But what one man’s poison is another man’s meat.

Toni Vadell and his brother Sebastià from the village of Petra in Manacor benefit from the fact that handbags are the world’s most coveted lady fashion accessory. For them it´s the solid base of their business. About ten years ago, the brothers founded the label Abaccino for designer handbags. Its success is outstanding. About 100,000 Abaccino bags are sold each year worldwide. The Mallorcan fashion label is now represented by sales agencies in more than a dozen countries and there are Abaccino showrooms in major European fashion capitals such as Paris, London or Barcelona.

That Mallorcan bag manufacturer´s sales rate even increased during the past two years of crisis for more than 20 percent. Toni Vadell believes the coherent in-house corporate concept to be the key to the result: “We´ve discovered a real market niche with our product. Our success is based on a cheeky, modern design at affordable prices. Our hand and shoulder bags are designed for both younger and mature women”, Vadell explains. No Abaccino bag is cheaper than 40 €, none is more expensive than 150 €. The Mallorcan background of the bags was important for the international breakthrough, too:

“A light, fresh and Mediterranean design attracts women and thus it´s the key to our international success.”

Bright colors, modern, happy and synthetic materials are used in the processing of the bags, which are manufactured in Asia. Vadell: “To create the same production conditions in Mallorca, we would have set more than 200 workers. That would be beyond price.” The company’s headquarters with an attached showroom, administrative department and creative workshop, which employs a total of 20 employees, is still in Petra.

In the 1970s, the father of Toni and Sebastiá Vadell began to sew leather cases for tourists from genuine pig leather, which then sold like hot cakes in gift shops and small boutiques in the coastal towns. End of the 1990s finally the sons took over the business. In the meanwhile Toni had studied product design and Sebastià graduated in business administration. Both quickly learned that times had changed, that competition was bigger and more powerful. “At that time souvenir shop on the island were already flooded by cheap produce from China. To survive in the long term, we ultimately had only one way out: Discovering and developing new markets”, Vadell. “We wanted to edit a new international product.” At first a suitable brand name for the new fashion label had to be found. “In the end we chose the Italian word abaccino. It sounds simple chic. And it means something like, ´outstanding’, but is used very rarely. Few Italians are probably aware that this word exists”, the 34-year-old Mallorcan remarks with a grin.

While his older brother cares for the company´s trade accounts, Toni takes care of design and marketing. Up to four collections are produced each year and marketed through a worldwide sales network. “Every country has its own taste in fashion, and these preferences must be considered with the design.” British and Germans customers preferred a rather simple and elegant look, while Russian ladies liked more flashy and striking bag.

However, sales in manufacturing industry are not an easy task. Quite the contrary. In addition to the showrooms for wholesale, expensive color catalogs for each new collection are spread out. Advertising campaigns are run in international print media, and the company also promotes handbags made in Mallorca with the brand Abaccino on all the leading fashion trade shows. “Fashion is a fast-paced business. Whoever relies on only one idea, will quickly disappear. A constant quest for new ways of exploring is necessary for long term positioning on the market”, Vadell believes. Proof of this is the breakthrough of many former regional brands such as Camper shoes or the art factory Majorica pearls.

Toni Vadell never takes a rest, in spite of his company´s success. He is currently working on a new project: “We are building an Internet platform, to offer an overview of our portfolio and for customers around the world to be able to buy our products.” After a few years, Vadell wants to sell 50 percent of the annual production of Abaccino via the World Wide Web. Of course, this requires that the demand for handbags continues to persist. But why not?

The social survey we mentioned before proves, that handbags will remain the most important companion of girls, women and ladies in the upcoming years. It´s a frightening date, that women spend as much as 76 days of their life digging in handbags. And what do men do while waiting for them? Right. They shake their heads.