By  on December 24, 2009

Web store LaudiVidni.com was started on the premise that consumers want to get in on the fun of designing their own handbags.

Founders Laura Kofoid and Grace Tsao-Wu are entrepreneurs with experience in retail and packaged goods. They launched the beta site in July, and since then Laudi Vidni has sold hundreds of bags.

“Our tag line is ‘Be your own brand,’” Kofoid said of Laudi Vidni, which is “individual” spelled backward. “We set out to transform the handbag space and create something that gives you a viable alternative to luxury or high-end bags. Unless you need something right now, there’s no reason all your bags can’t be custom designed.”

The company offers eight silhouettes, 40 leathers and a variety of trim options. About 10,000 combinations are possible.

Each Laudi Vidni bag is made to order in Chicago and arrives in three to four weeks. Prices range from $85 for a wristlet to $495 for a shoulder bag in a basic leather to $795 for the biggest bag in premium leather.

Materials are from the U.S. and Europe, and include a floral print metallic velvet leather, tie-dyed calfskin and patent leather. The linings are 100 percent cotton sateen and come in six colors. The novelty leathers and intense colors have been the most popular.

The company plans to open a store with samples and computer stations for designing and ordering by the end of next year. A location has not yet been decided. The business was conceived as a multichannel retailer from the beginning, similar to the Apple model.

“Women do prefer to see the leather and the bags,” Kofoid said. To that end, the company has held several events in New York and Chicago over the last couple of months. More than 75 percent of the women invited bought bags and the average price was $400, she said.

Designs can be saved and shared with others.

The company plans to add more silhouettes and options, such as a choice of strap length, more pockets, contrast stitching and initials and monograms. It does not keep finished goods inventory and prefers to manufacture domestically for ease of shipping and quality control.

Tsao-Wu started in finance at Kraft Foods and opened a high-end tableware store in Chicago called Tabula Tua in 1994. It now includes e-commerce and wholesale.

Kofoid worked at Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Dayton Hudson Fields, Sears and Baker Furniture in a variety of roles, including marketing, buying and product development.

Overall, custom-made bags are picking up on the Web. Timbuk2 was one of the first companies to sell made-to-order bags online, in the form of nylon messenger bags, starting in 1994. The category has been one of the most successful applications of “mass customization,” which uses computer technology instead of traditional craft techniques to produce a unique item at a popular price.

Lill sells made-to-order mixed-cotton print bags online, and Freddy & Ma offers contemporary bags in cotton twill or poly poplin prints with leather accents. The customer can upload her own print or choose one from Freddy & Ma. Freitag cuts totes and messenger bags out of recycled truck tarps, and customers can choose the placement of their pattern pieces online.

Other high-tech made-to-order businesses include Chloe & Reese sportswear, Lori Coulter swimwear, Nike ID, Lands’ End, J.C. Penney Co., Timberland, IndiJeans and Selve.

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