Read Laura Dotolo's latest feature in ITAC below;
Laura Dotolo was working as a fashion stylist in New York City during 2001, when she decided to start designing her own handbags. She began a difficult search for the perfect factory to produce her work; at the time, many handbag factories in NYC were closing, and Laura immediately saw an opportunity to open a one-stop-shop offering bag design consultations, development/manufacturing, as well as marketing and branding. She founded Clutch Made in 2012, to fulfill the needs that she had identified years earlier and help other designers launch their bag and accessory lines. From tech pack services and fabric sourcing to pattern making and full production, Clutch Made helps bring its clients’ vision to life, and handles the entire creative and manufacturing process in-house. A woman-owned and operated manufacturing company, the business also prides itself on its ability to communicate, understand, and execute – Laura is convinced that it’s what allows Clutch Made to stand out, along with the emphasis placed on educating designers along each step of the process. Following Clutch Made’s success, Laura decided to start Clutch Bags, an online curated marketplace through which she sells her own designs as well as those of her Clutch Made’ clients.
“Our company has always had a good visual sense and art direction, allowing us to shine in the digital space.”
Against all odds, COVID has been kind to Clutch Made. The company already knew how to work with its clients virtually and had its digital marketing in place to communicate with buyers and grow its brand visibility. Clutch Made’s sample makers and pattern makers were able to shift to remote work, and overall operations adapted very quickly to the lockdown. In fact, business grew during the pandemic, predominantly due to working with emerging designers and more established brands looking to relocate production to New York City. The one recurring challenge for Laura has been hiring skilled artisans to complement the amazing group of artists on her team.
“We want to remain in the Garment District while also expanding across the country.”
Over the years, Clutch Made has lost resources, vendors, and clients who closed shop or moved abroad, yet the company has never considered moving. Looking to the future, Laura hopes to create a franchise of Clutch Made pods within factories across the United States. These pods would specifically provide accessories manufacturing services with the goal of improving the manufacturing processes and expanding factory capabilities. She feels strongly that this initiative would also help make manufacturing more appealing and glamorous to younger generations.
Q&A with Laura Dotolo
What work have you enjoyed most? I have always enjoyed the creative process, taking raw materials and transforming them. What keeps you motivated? New York City and my team. I didn’t think NYC would make it through COVID, but there is still an unmatched energy here. My team is full of dynamism, and constantly opens my eyes to new ideas. Who influenced you most? My father. In 6th grade, he taught me the word “perseverance.” I have taken that word with me through my life, and continue to push myself. My father also constantly advised me to “Buy Made in the USA”, and that also stuck with me.