NEW YORK — Just a few blocks south of Times Square, a pile of Marc by Marc Jacobs tote bags crowd the floor of an average office space. Next to them sits a stand filled with Cole Haan, Calvin Klein, Fossil and Rag & Bone wallets. Just down the hall, a display of brightly colored fall Kenzo bags sits next to a stack of Kirkland — Costco’s in-house label — branded belts.
Welcome to the office of Accessories International Ltd., the U.S. subsidiary of Superior Leathers Ltd., a one-stop shop for brands when it comes to leather goods. “We’re quite busy,” said Ivy Moliver, managing director of the company.
Busy might be somewhat of an understatement.
Superior Leathers, which started as a factory in Taiwan in 1975, is headquartered in Hong Kong, with an additional factory in China, and acts as one of the five largest leather goods manufacturers in the Far East. “We started in the belt and small leather goods business, and quickly expanded to all categories,” Moliver said. “As we own our China factory and also have our own leather finishing plant at our factory, we can control some of our resources. This is an important facet to our success.”
Moliver, a veteran in the handbag industry, partnered with Richard Liu, the owner of Superior Leather, whom she describes as “the smartest and savviest person I have ever met,” to open the company’s U.S. office six years ago. Today, Moliver, along with just two additional employees, oversees what she estimates to be 35 to 40 brands out of the New York-based office, including some global and European labels.
“We are working with the better vertical specialty retailers and design studios, [leaning] toward luxury brands,” she said.
Among them are Marc Jacobs, J. Crew, Kenzo, Derek Lam, Rag & Bone, Fairchild Baldwin, Diane von Furstenberg, Brooks Brothers and Foley and Corinna. The company also counts Uniqlo and Fossil as two of its biggest customers. “We started the Fossil accessory business from Day One out of the box with them,” Moliver said. “Our Uniqlo business is also very, very important. We produce 300,000 belts a month for them, and all of their canvas totes. We’re now working on their backpacks and wallets with very big numbers behind them.”
Primary responsibilities for Accessories International involve product development, sample making, leather finishing, silkscreen printing and material development. The New York office additionally serves as a marketing office and showroom for new and existing customers. “Because we’ve been around so long, we have quite a reputation and [customers] know that we own our factory and our finishing plant,” Moliver said. “There’s not too much we can’t do. It’s one-stop shopping.”
As for choosing clients, the key for Accessories International is a strong collaboration. “We’re looking for people [who] can have a good understanding and really want to have a good partnership,” she said. “We’re not looking to be a subcontractor type of thing. We need to be a full developmental partner. We’ve grown a lot of businesses. We’re looking for solid, long-term things that have good potential.”
The clients also have to be fiscally responsible. “We’ll do costing exercises and see how they react, we’ll also look at the volume of the company, their distribution, things like that that all come into play,” Moliver said. “The majority of our business is FOB — meaning first cost, factory direct — because most of our companies are vertical and they’ve been keeping it the same across all categories. We’re paid a percentage of that.”
Helping to develop collections for so many brands, Moliver sees trends even before they hit the runway; popular techniques for fall, she said, are patchwork, felt, embroidery and laser embossing.
All of these, as well as hundreds of examples of different materials, styles and finishing techniques, are out on display at the office, where Moliver likes to keep past work out for easy reference.
“We’ll keep stuff out for construction reference, or material or finishing — there are a lot of details,” she said. “It’s a creative mess, so to speak.”