NEW YORK — “She is busier than me,” remarked Tommy Hilfiger while speaking about his wife, Dee Ocleppo, and her new namesake accessories collection. Previously Ocleppo designed a collection of handbags that sat at a luxury price point with her Bag Bar customization concept at retail. Kate Spade & Co. acquired the intellectual property and related business assets of the Bag Bar business from Ocleppo in 2016.
Now Ocleppo is back with The Dee Ocleppo Collection, a new direct-to-consumer brand strategy selling women’s bags and shoes as well as a range of men’s footwear options that lands at an accessible price point.
“I went from HSN to the line that I started, Dee Ocleppo, that was high, high-end. I went from one price point to the extreme price point and I feel like now I’ve landed right in the middle,” she said.
Ocleppo, who also is part owner and creative director and brand ambassador of Judith Leiber, held private appointments at New York’s oldest Italian restaurant, Barbetta, to preview the new Italian-made collection of accessories.
“When I was doing my Dee Ocleppo bags I’d always get these messages online or direct messages on social media saying, ‘I wish I could afford it,’ and that was difficult for me and I thought how can I do this and make it more approachable for everyone and still provide the quality,” Ocleppo said.
“We were lucky enough to meet these partners who worked with the factories in Italy that were able to make these incredible pieces. Cut out the middle man, which are the retailers, and then provide it directly from the factories to the consumer. The quality and the value for what we are offering is pretty unique. I think our prices are competitive and that excites me,” Ocleppo continued.
Italy, specifically Naples, plays a huge role in the brand’s marketing strategy by leveraging the Italian manufacturing as part of the new brand’s forming identity. Because the brand is direct-to-consumer, all their marketing is digitally led with a focus on Instagram, and Ocleppo filmed a lot of content that is meant to be shared and help tell her new brand’s story. “I’m actually in the factories meeting the woman that is sewing the bag and she is standing next to the guy who is hand-painting the shoes. Sharing all that is something we could never do before.”
For Ocleppo, this kind of storytelling is crucial to connecting to her customer. “It’s about education, being transparent and informative.”
The savvy of Hilfiger, a brand adviser to his wife, is also present in Ocleppo’s brand selling strategy. She plans to release new merchandise monthly, on a “drop” style that is similar to the strategy of brands closely associated with the streetwear realm. “I think Tommy had a lot to do with that. He is by my side and advises me on a lot of things. He was like, ‘You have to do drops.’ He is very much about what is going on now and what is coming in the future. That is the lingo of today.”
The initial launch consists of a selection of signature pumps, offered in heights of 60, 80 and 100 millimeters, slingbacks and mules in a range of colors. The logo is a subtle D, O and H detail with pink soles on the heels and pink details inside many of the handbags. Handbags include a range of styles including croc-embossed leather totes, cross-body bags and clutches appropriate for day or evening. Accompanying the women’s collection is a full range of men’s shoe styles, such as wingtips, monk straps in colors as well as a variety of leather sneaker options. Prices for women’s and men’s footwear range from $190 to $490 and handbags from $220 to $590 and are available on deeocleppo.com.
And while Ocleppo says they aren’t there yet, a foray into men’s bags and small leather goods is on her radar for the future.
As busy as Ocleppo already is, things are about to get even busier as her husband hinted at things to come for the Judith Leiber brand, which is expanding to be an evening-based lifestyle brand. The Leiber brand already has eyewear and stationery in its stable but, according to Hilfiger, the firm is expanding into apparel, children’s, jewelry and footwear.