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Meet Daphne Chen of POND Los Angeles in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Daphne Chen.

Daphne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up in LA, I loved spending countless hours sketching and dreaming about how glamorous it would be as a fashion designer. After graduating from FIDM and working as a designer for Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Paige, and other amazing brands, I knew I was ready to create something that reflected my own vision.

As a designer, I’ve always been interested with the concept of creating pieces that are both functional and beautiful. Most of the women’s fashion you see today treat functionality as an afterthought, which didn’t really make sense to me. I decided to focus my attention on handbags since that’s the item that she carries with her every day. Today’s woman is busier than ever, yet her handbag has not evolved to keep up with her demanding schedule. In my previous job, many women carried multiple bags to fit all their personal and work essentials. And personally, moving from bag to bag such as for work, the gym, or for traveling became a pain point. I knew there just had to be a better and easier way, and from that, I decided to design a bag that combines classic aesthetics and modern functionality that can keep up with today’s woman demanding needs.

With this new idea, I decided to launch the Modern Bag on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform as a way to connect directly with our supporters and not be beholden to investors. As a designer, quality is imperative and we don’t sacrifice quality in order to hit a target margin. We hit our fundraising goal within 53 minutes of our Kickstarter launch and delivered the bag on time to our backers.

We were recently featured in Town & Country, AOL, and Forbes. We’ve got some new styles coming out soon, so stay tuned!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
One of the worst thing that can happen to a startup launching on Kickstarter happened to us. We already reached our funding goal and were in the midst of working with a manufacturer who made our final samples when they started to play games. This happens with overseas manufacturers often, especially with new startups when they know they can call the shots. They refused to work with us unless we gave them double the amounts, and then ultimately stopped answering our calls. What appeared to be a nightmare situation turned out to be a blessing! Luckily, we found our current manufacturer through a good friend, and it worked out even better. They’re honest, treat their worker well, have kept their word, and were with us every step of the way.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was maintaining the production dates. In order to do so, I flew to our factory to be on site overseeing production for a solid two months. It was hard to be away from family (and also impossible to find salad there!), but I also gained a new family, my extended work family. Typically designers communicate solely through email, hardly meeting the business owner and would never meet any workers or sewers. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to get to know everyone from the business owner to their families, to the patternmakers, sewers, and even the janitorial staff!

We made sure to partner with a manufacturer who has extremely high integrity and standards. They take bi-annual out of town work trips and hold fun events like basketball tournaments for all of the workers. Yes, I even joined in to play ball a few times! We don’t pay the cheapest price when working with an incredible factory like this, but it aligns with our core values of treating workers with respect and paying a fair working wage.

Our journey so far has not been entirely seamless but I appreciate the struggles since it gives me an opportunity to learn and grow. What I’ve learned is to always have multiple backup plans every step of the way. I try not to look back and think the tough times and trust me, there were too many countless nights where I couldn’t sleep because of the stress. But even one moment of triumph outweighs the negative every time.

Please tell us about POND Los Angeles.
Pond Los Angeles is an independent product design studio. Our foundation is rooted in beautiful design, which is the genesis of everything we create. We are focused on infusing luxury DNA, beautiful design, and intuitive functionality into everyday essentials. We’re known for the amount of thought and attention to detail that we put into our products. We often hear from our customers that it’s clear to them that we really thought of everything. We’re also known for our excellent customer service.

As a new startup, we’re super appreciative of our customers that are willing to take a chance on us. We wouldn’t be here without them, and making them happy is our top priority. We’ve always gotten back to customer inquiries as quickly as we can, even on weekends, and we often hear from them how surprised they are that we get back to them so quickly.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Our biggest takeaway is to always have multiple backup plans. In the beginning, we ran into some fire drills that could’ve been avoided. But it’s important to be nimble, continuously pivot and to always look forward into the future, and not backward with regret.

Pricing:

  • Modern Bag, $399 – 459
  • Kitty Clutch, $95-155

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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