Lana Hopkins speaking at WWD's inaugural Tokyo summit in partnership with Lumine.

“When is the last time you were truly wowed by anything that you saw?” Lana Hopkins asked. “What are the top two to three brands that really excite you?”

It’s a harder question to answer than it should be. The Australian founder of the customizable bags and accessories business Mon Purse said the best kind of retail experience is one that evokes emotion — a kind of “magic.”

A few years prior, Hopkins found that feeling in an unusual place: a Build-a-Bear workshop. Frustrated after going on an unsuccessful quest to shop for a black handbag that was under $2,000 and that came with gold hardware, she decided to wander into the toy shop and spent over an hour building a teddy bear from scratch.

Delighted with her new creation, the experience served as the basis for Hopkins to launch her brand in 2014, allowing customers — using templates — to pick the colors, fabrics, add monograms and a range of other options.

“If you could design your perfect teddy bear and get that excited about building a teddy bear, why can’t we have our own perfect handbags?” she said. “If you are personalizing or customizing something, you are emotionally involved in creating this thing. It’s yours. It’s an extension of your personality.”

She pointed out: “Millennials are spending more money on experiences than on goods…It’s about us deciding, curating and driving what it is that we want to see.

Since then, Mon Purse has developed beyond bags and a big proportion of the business now comes from small leather goods: cosmetic cases, phone cases and the like.

Available online to consumers worldwide, the company is working on cutting down delivery times. Currently, a customized handbag takes four to six weeks to reach consumers. Hopkins hopes to achieve two weeks or one week if the customer pays an extra fee.

Millennials are known to expect instant gratification, but Hopkins has found that involving them as part of the creation process has allowed Mon Purse to have a little bit more leeway.

“If you have designed your own very perfect bag, you are much more inclined to be patient and wait for that,” Hopkins said.

Lana Hopkins

Lana Hopkins  Saito Masayuki/WWD

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