By  on November 5, 2007

The latest brand to join the better handbag market, Sylvie Celine, is about family ties.

Launching this spring, Sylvie Celine is a brand extension of Bijoux International, founder Angela W. Han's firm that owns the $100 million Eastsport backpack label and holds the licenses for Matthew Williamson's fragrance and cosmetic lines.

Sylvie Celine, the owner's first venture into the category, is an homage to her late grandmother. Han discovered a collection of her grandmother's vintage bags and designs and felt compelled to bring them to life. The result: colorful, innovative bags in an array of materials, from pebble and patent leather to python and crocodile.

Every bag is handmade in China by local artisans. It is unlike other handbags in the $150 to $3,000 price range — many of which are either a ready-to-wear firm's product extension or a contemporary line's attempt at becoming a lifestyle brand.

"This is a passion, both for Angela and myself," said Joseph Janus, vice president of marketing, advertising and licensing for JenUSA, Sylvie Celine's U.S. distributor. "This is not a situation where we're coming into the market to make money and keep going. It's a tribute to her grandmother and we have to build it up to get that handcrafted design and get it right. We're not trying to get Sylvie Celine to be the next Eastsport."

Janus has been shopping the line to specialty retailers around the U.S., such as Sacco Shoes in New York and Out of the Box in Connecticut. The goal is to build the brand slowly and cautiously.

"Everybody feels a rush to license out as many products as possible," Janus said. "We want to be a good handbag line. We want to be top notch on quality and fabrics. These bags are handmade and we want to grow the brand appropriately. We're taking baby steps.

We want small, simple, quality."

Still, Janus anticipates seeing Sylvie Celine in 500 specialty stores nationwide in the coming year, with a gross of $3 million to $5 million. He expects the brand to grow 10 to 15 percent annually.

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