The Levy Bag: Functionality Comes First
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.
For many people, an interview with an industry professional sounds like a daunting experience, more so when that person has just won their second Design Excellence Award. Going into the interview with Tony Drockton, the founder of Hammitt Los Angeles, we were all definitely feeling a bit nervous! Our game plan was set, our questions were out and ready to go, and then the formal portion of our interview was over before it had even started! Drockton had gone ahead and answered all of our questions and emailed them back to us. He said he wanted to switch up the way things work and instead have a more natural conversation. All of us were shocked. There were 30 seconds of internalized panic and “what now?!” texts. The next 40 minutes flew by, and it was such a wonderful and fun experience. It was inspiring and exciting that we were able to get to know Tony, the founder of such an incredible and successful handbag company, on a more personal level. The interest he took in us was so appreciated as he asked us questions about virtual college and its effect on us, how we thought businesses responded to COVID-19, and what we as consumers would want to see more of from those businesses.
As for the actual product, this year's winner for the DEA award category of personal accessory, was the “Levy” bag from Hammitt. The bag’s removable straps allow for it to be versatile, with the capabilities to act as a wallet, clutch, or crossbody bag depending on consumers’ preference. Hammitt’s policy of a lifetime warranty for all products is truly unheard of and truly demonstrates that this progressive brand really cares for their customers. Here’s what we were able to learn about the “Levy” bag and the Hammitt company from speaking with Drockton.
Photo of the exterior of the Levy bag (in black) from Hammitt.com
Kendra: Congratulations on winning a Design Excellence Award for your Levy bag! We’d love to know, what was the initial inspiration for the Levy bag?
Drockton: Functionality is always at the forefront of our designs, and Levy takes that to a whole new level. Levy can be used as a wallet, but it takes on a life of its own, too. You can fit an iPhone inside of Levy and carry it as a clutch, or add a crossbody strap and wear it for errands on the go.We wanted to create a compact bag that did everything, and our Hammitt women have responded with enthusiasm!
Kendra:Was there a reason behind the name of the Levy bag?
Drockton: We name our bags after men, because we believe a woman deserves arm candy that lives up to her expectations and desires. Some people have a man on their arm, but our woman always has her ultimate bag on her arm, no matter what.
We actually name our wallets and small leather goods after LA freeways and roads, because you can’t navigate life without that organization and dependability. Levy was originally named as a wallet, but we changed its name when we realized it absolutely thrived as a stand-alone bag.
Kendra: If we can please ask you, how did you get into the fashion and handbag business?
Drockton: After a few very different (albeit successful) business ventures, I was looking for a new journey that celebrated both my entrepreneurial and creative spirits. I happened to meet Stephenie Hammitt, who was looking to take her handbag line to the next level. It was really serendipitous.
Emma: What made you decide to base your company in Hermosa Beach, California?
Drockton: Stephenie and I both lived here and loved the community. Since then, it has become an even more integral part of our brand. The women who have worn our bags from day one still show the same enthusiasm for their hometown handbag brand and are fantastic ambassadors.
While this is an unusual time, the company culture here is typically outstanding, too. It’s so special to have business discussions on walks along the beach and sit out for BBQs on a beautiful roof. Great people are drawn here.
Emma: How long did it take you to build your brand up from the start?
Drockton: Well, like every brand, we are always a work in progress! I would say it took a decade for us to truly discover who we were and establish ourselves as a contender in the market. People started to recognize the value of our lifetime promise, spot us on celebrities and see our online advertising. We started as a wholesale brand, and we still value our partners, but e-commerce has allowed us to spread our wings even more!
Emma: How did you and Stephanie Hammitt decide to launch this brand?
Drockton: Stephenie was already making the brand a local favorite. Literally, she was selling it at wine and cheese house parties! We had lots of women singing the bags’ praises, and that’s when we decided that we wanted to spread that same joy and positivity in more places. That’s when I stepped in and started to take things national. It was all about building good partnerships and spreading positivity, right from the start.
Gabriella: How do you want women to feel when they are using/wearing your product?
Drockton: We want them to feel joyful! We want it to start conversations, get them compliments and just make life easier. If we can give people a reason to smile, we have done our job.
Gabriella: What makes a Hammitt bag different from other bags in retail?
Drockton: These bags are fashion-forward, but we do everything possible to push the envelope on functionality. There are pockets for everything - cell phones, sunglasses, face mask, lipstick, credit cards. Many styles are reversible and have removable straps. Every detail is crafted to make life easier, and to make convenience a delight allowing you to be more efficient every day.
Gabriella: What is your favorite part of co-running this business?
Drockton: Stephenie moved on from day-to-day involvement in Hammitt early on, but I am lucky to co-run this business with an amazing team, including our CEO Andrew Forbes. Andrew has done an incredible job helping to propel us forward, and it frees me up to be the Chief Cheerleader. Everything we do for our clients, I want to do for our team. Bringing them joy is what inspires me to keep going every day.
Gabriella: Finally, do you have any advice for young individuals who are wanting to start their own company?
Drockton: Ask lots of questions of other successful entrepreneurs and mentors. Really listen and learn. If you can, work side by side with them before you make the leap. Then, when you jump, you’ll be prepared for challenges. Success doesn’t come easy, and in fact, it’s an ongoing process. The most successful entrepreneurs have experienced failure at least once prior to huge success. Knowing that going in, allows you to grow from failures and keep pursuing your dreams of success. That said, savor the sweet moments. Bank up on positivity and deep relationships, and it’ll help you rise above in the tougher times! Surrounding yourself with good people will make all the difference along your journey.
Photo of the interior of the Levy bag (in pew) from Hammitt.com
As Hammitt collects its second DEA award, there’s no question as to why they would once again receive this incredible honor. Tony Drockton continues to push the boundaries of his company and does so with immense support from his incredible team and an extremely loyal fan base. The “Levy” Bag itself is the ultimate handbag for the ‘on the go’ woman, a true day-to-night essential and some classy arm candy. The many looks you can achieve with the Levy's versatility makes it a bag worth the elevated pricing. This was truly a fun and engaging experience as we were able to learn more about Hammitt, The “Levy’ bag, and the fashion industry. We planned on going into this interview and receiving typical responses, but thanks to Drockton’s upbeat spirit, we ended up having an enlightening conversation beyond our initial questions. It truly was a pleasure to meet with Drockton, and to receive immeasurable advice on how to be successful in our future career endeavors in the fashion industry.
Photo from interview with Tony Drockton