By  on July 29, 2011

After 88 years of selling practically every accessory but handbags,The Echo Design Group is finally dipping its toe into the market with anew collection for spring.

“When you have an 88-year history,you have a Chinese sense of time,” said company chief executive officerSteven Roberts, who explained the new handbag collection, which will hitstores in February, nods to Echo’s focus on print, pattern and color.

Founded in 1923 as a scarf company, Echo has since expanded intocategories such as swimwear, home, outerwear and cold-weatheraccessories. According to Roberts, whose grandfather started thecompany, the latest addition is meant to fill a “white space” in themarket.

That space is a nonleather, moderately priced ($78 to$128) one that mixes functionality with fashion.

“No one needsanother leather brand,” Roberts said. “We come from a textile base. It’sa softer world.”

The company’s heritage, combined with thesuccess of the beach bag collection it has produced for a few years,have been key drivers in the creation of the handbag line, the ceo said.He declined to disclose Echo’s sales, but said he expects the newcollection to account for between 10 and 15 percent of revenues in thenext few years.

Inspired by its scarves, tribal influences andanimal prints, the bags mix new materials like cotton based coatedlightweight fabrics with textured piping and “pops of color,” said ClareSchultheis, managing director of handbags, who stressed the opportunityto grab market share.

The first collection will contain 45different units, and will include hobos, cross body bags, shoulder bags,flap messenger bags, north-south totes and large square totes.

The bags will appear in many of the same stores that carry the Echobrand now, including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and Dillard’s.

“There’s a very varied customer who would like this [collection],” saidSchultheis, noting that while the bag’s reasonable price point gives ita leg up on competitors like Coach and Marc by Marc Jacobs, it’s “notalways about price.”

“You just have to give the customer a lotof things to love about the product,” she said.

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