Imagining Hope with Bentz Luxury
posted by Jennifer Felder and Francesca Gonzalez
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2020 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Honors Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
After weeks of researching the two entrepreneurs, Kim and Melissa Bentz, we were ready to interview them about their success story that is transforming luxury. Bentz Luxury has been in business for over a decade and continues to be a successful luxury accessories brand. The creatives of the brand, sisters Kim and Melissa Bentz, put a personal creative twist on all of their designs. Melissa’s taste is more high fashion, whereas Kim has more of an edgy style. Kim and Melissa love working together because they are not only sisters but also best friends for more than 20 years.
The Bentz Luxury sisters are inspired by their mother, an oil painter, and their father, a businessman and engineer. Although it took some time to rise in the fashion industry, the company has grown immensely.
Bentz Luxury creates beautiful luxury bags for everyone to enjoy. The Accessories Council awarded a Design Excellence Award for their Rainbow Baby Jewel Belt Bag in the handbags under $1,000 category.
The Bentz Sisters were two of the nicest people we’ve ever met. A friendly welcoming was all we needed to build our confidence and started asking our questions:
How would you describe the mission of your brand?
The sisters responded that their global brand is about selling optimism. There were moments of wanting to give up, but they would find pennies and felt a “divine power” telling them to keep going. The sisters describe their brand as "imagining hope". They want to pay that hope forward, so those found pennies and their passion inspired their "Penny Story". Skillfully placed within each bag is a custom-designed 18 karat gold-coated penny surrounded by dazzling Swarovski crystals. A portion of each sale is donated to Make A Wish Foundation.
What was it like creating your first line of bags in 2001?
Melissa responded that she never planned on being a designer. Fashion was originally a hobby. She was in the process of making her first personal bag with a Czechoslovakian handle, and then it broke. As it was after 9/11, she decided to create a flag-design bag. She later went into a local Neiman Marcus and received an offer to sell her line knowing she didn’t have one. She got to work, sold her entire line, and then celebrated with Kim.
What is the inspiration behind creating the winning design, the Rainbow Baby Jewel Belt Bag?
The 2019 award-winning bag was the inspiration for its shape, and they took inspiration from COVID-19 for the pop of rainbow. Designers have already reinvented belt bags, but the Bentz Luxury Rainbow Baby Jewel Belt Bag is different from competitors. The sisters kept the full style of their other bags including the half flap up opening, the custom detailed crystal handle, and their logo in gold in the center of the belt. The Rainbow Baby Jewel Belt Bag has the convenient parts of belt bags without sacrificing the exquisite beauty and Bentz details the handbags are known for.
What is the hardest part of building and managing your own company, as it grows?
The sisters said that money and connections are the hardest parts of building and managing their company. Neither of them went to fashion school, so they learned from experience. They spent years working in their family business and learned a thing or two from there as well.
What do you feel makes an authentic luxury accessory?
The Bentz sisters believe that the experience, details, and quality make an authentic luxury accessory. They want the customer to feel that it's Christmas when opening one of their products. Also, having Italian products and paying attention to every detail that contributes to an authentic luxury product. How a customer is treated is also part of the experience.
How do both of your contrasting tastes shine through in each design you produce?
Kim is looking forward to adding more of an edgy style to Bentz. The bags are more of Melissa’s style, but they plan on releasing bags that are more youthful and urban. Both styles will be represented in their collection. The sisters each add small details and have created a truly collaborative process.
How did you begin your collaboration with Swarovski?
Melissa put Swarovski crystals on her first line. They shared that it was very difficult trying to become a Swarovski partner, but they were able to accomplish it. Bentz has a patented piece on their bag handles from Swarovski, which makes their brand even more exclusive.
What do you think are the most important skills for an entrepreneur?
Kim and Melissa’s tip is to never give up. The ones who don’t give up are the ones who make it. They added that you do get through those rough patches, even though it may feel like you will not, but they advised to remain patient.
What is next for Bentz Luxury?
Kim and Melissa shared their expansion plans, they are hoping to add jewelry and scarves to their handbag line, as well as having an artist-sneaker release! They are even considering clothing. Their goal is to bring versatility to Bentz Luxury, meaning that they want to have over-the-top and everyday pieces.
Interviewing masterminds, Kim and Melissa Bentz, was a wonderful experience. Learning about their journey was inspirational. Their attitudes are infectious and now we are imagining hope too! We both appreciate this opportunity and it's definitely one we will never forget.