GG Maull’s distinctive flair for weaving in nods of Art Deco with Eighties power suit vibes has become unmistakable in a sea of nondescript bucket and saddle bags.
It’s a mark that’s served as a point of distinction for the New York firm’s founder and creative director, Gretchen Maull Berger, who interned at Proenza Schouler before going on to work at Missoni, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Coach, Kate Spade and Juicy Couture.
“Everyone would always joke with me that they could recognize the bags I designed no matter what company I worked with,” Maull Berger said. “I love diamonds and triangles. I’ve always loved Art Deco and then I’m a product of the Eighties and power women dressing with the big shoulders and accessories.”
GG Maull, at less than two years old, is still small with two full-time employees and the line in roughly 15 doors, including Ron Robinson, Curve and Intermix. However, the company’s been making strides and notched a profit this past October, November and December. It bags have been seen on celebrities such as Charlize Theron, Kristen Bell, Alison Brie and Rocky Barnes.
About 90 percent of the line is made in Italy, with some specialty pieces produced in New York.
GG Maull launched with five silhouettes, including the innovative Rebel Holster, which is what the name implies, comprised of essentially two small bags that can be slipped on and off — a trendy statement for places such as festivals with a retail price tag starting at $695 for styles in Italian calf leather or python. The company’s Mini GG, which breaks down the holster into a single cross-body with a meaty chain, bearing the company’s double “G” design, was designed to also be worn around the waist.
“It’s high quality and a timeless design, not trendy,” Maull Berger said. “At GG Maull we’re trying to make a unique point of view rather than what’s on trend. Almost all of our bags have a hands-free component.”
Maull Berger, after designing handbags for so many notables within the market, received the final push to strike out on her own after making her way to senior designer at Juicy Couture before realizing the climb to the top isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
“You become a manager of other designers,” she said, reflecting on the time.
It was the combination of Juicy later being sold to Authentic Brands Group and a pondering of where her corporate career was headed, in addition to her sister being hit by a car while crossing the street, that made her decide it was time to make the most of her life and start her own business.
The Northern California native, now based out of New York for GG Maull, received a crash course in business with the help of the Tory Burch Foundation and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program aimed at providing founders access to both education and capital.
Maull Berger describes her customer base with a couple of archetypes. Group one is the 30- to 40-year-old young mom or young professional. “She likes fashion but is not into high fashion,” the designer said. The other set of customers is what she dubbed the matriarch, women in their 50s, 60s and even early 70s as she’s seen at some of her Bloomingdale’s trunk shows, who is seen as the fashion leader of her social circle.
Ultimately, the goal is to build GG Maul into a full accessories brand, with the eventual addition of categories such as sunglasses, perfume, shoes and jewelry. For now, she’s focused on building out the wholesale business, targeting flagship cities where the line’s seen traction through its online boutique and finding opportunity in white space within the marketplace, such as the buildout of her evening bags in the $495 to $595 price range with pieces such as the Outlaw this past fall. Maull Berger’s also reliant on the more traditional trunk show than, say, social media to build the brand.
“Every store that we launch in, I personally do the trunk show,” she said, pointing out it helps because she can show the multifunctional design elements. “It goes back to the basics of that personal connection with your customer and giving them the best customer service that you can.”