From kitchen table project to six-storey Covent Garden flagship in six years


When we spoke to Deane she was fresh back from New York, on a reconnaissance mission ahead of planned overseas expansion in the US. With a lot of customers already in the US, she said focusing there makes sense. This coming year will be about the US and China, with the Asian nation experiencing a soft launch in December to make sure factors such as logistics and payment processing didn’t see the business fall flat on its face. To cater to its new market, the Cambridge Satchel Company will be rolling out a range celebrating the year of the sheep, a follow up to what was done for the year of the horse last year.

On the product development front, alongside the new product developer from Mulberry, Deane and the business recruited two further designers, one from Karl Lagerfeld and one from Coach.

“Where as my mum and I knew a good school satchel, we need to be able to move forward in a way that has style and conviction, and keeps the brand tight but evolving and diversifying,” she explained.

“That is when you need skills and talents like the ones we’ve brought in. So speaking to them they are very aware of what is going on in the market but also how we respond to new customer demands in a way that keeps the signature of the brand.”

For Deane it is incredibly important that all new products look like the Cambridge Satchel Company, rather than just throwing the doors open and saying they’ll make anything from pencil cases and shower curtains. What she is most proud of is the ability to offer customers the talents of these designers in an affordable and made in Britain way.

From new products we took a step back in our interview and examined the Google advert that really put the Cambridge Satchel Company on the map. Like young media mogul Jamal Edwards experienced, the business was made the subject of a Google Chrome advert that charted its origins as a project set up to fund school fees for her children through its coverage by fashion bloggers around the world.

From that connection, and subsequent link up with Index Ventures, Deane says she now has a profound appreciation for the digital space.

“The digital space is one I feel especially comfortable in, and I really do like being with people who work in that kind of sector and area. It was a real treat to go to Mountain View [Google’s US headquarters] and see what people are doing. It’s go so much energy and to bring that into a more traditional business sector has really helped.

“Another thing I’d say is that scaling and being able to keep relevant and cutting edge has involved a lot of things like payment processing and being able to accept from China UnionPay and even something like Bitcoin.”


Only just back from New York, Deane was about to ship out to China the next day when we caught up with her. Doing China “property” for Deane means having customer care locally in Shanghai and everything in a local language. Visit the company’s website and you’ll be able to toggle between English, Korean, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.

British luxury products are experiencing a boon in China right now, something Deane is acutely aware of and keen to develop. “It is much easier than people might thing to go somewhere like China and talk about our product as we own it from the first cut of leather – it is something that we can go and shout about.”

The Cambridge Satchel Company is a very different enterprise to the one it was a year ago. The product concept and values have remained the same, but have been supercharged by a digital overhaul, superstar recruitment process and global readiness programme. And to top it all off, Deane was the recipient of an OBE in the Queen’s new year’s honours list for services to entrepreneurship.

Share this story

Close
Menu
Send this to a friend