Vera Bradley Handbags and Accessories
Pretty and Practical Bags and Accessories
I freely admit that I am addicted to handbags. I love all of them. I donate many to charity when I no longer have a use for them, or my tastes change. But there comes a point when practicality becomes an issue. I find that certain bags are poorly constructed and break easily, or do not have enough compartments for everything I want to carry with me. Then I noticed brightly colored bags, with their whimsical quilted patterns, many pockets to organize things, and a large variety of colored designs. I adored them immediately and slowly became more interested in this company as I saw more women carrying these handbags and other products.
The Company Is Born
Two women co-founded the company who manufactures these bags, Barbara Bradley Balkgaard, and Patricia R. Miller. They were sitting in an airport waiting for a flight out of Atlanta in 1982. Anyone who has watched a luggage carousel spin around dozens of times while trying to find their belongings can attest to the fact that most of the luggage is boring, black, and masculine looking. Or at least it used to be.
Barbara and Patricia decided that as soon as they got home, they would design a line of women’s luggage and travel accessories. When they returned home to IN, they did just that, and named the company after Barbara’s Mom, Vera. It was their mission to find a way to manufacture and market sensible, colorful, useful handbags and luggage. Barbara and Patricia never believed these brightly colored bags with lots of pockets for storage would become so popular, but the brand was born.
The company is now an internationally recognized name. Vera Bradley herself was born August 9, 1909, and apparently had a colorful and fun personality which is reflected in the goods that bear her name. She was a model for Elizabeth Arden, and a class act, with a great sense of style and grace. Vera worked for the company as a sales representative from her Miami, FL, residence, until she passed away in the early 1990’s.
Functional Products That are Made to Last
I bought my first handbag about ten years ago. But I discovered that the brand has been in business for over twenty years, and has many loyal followers. Each season new fabrics and patterns are introduced into the line, and fans eagerly await different styles of handbags and totes. As time passes, and women’s needs change, all kinds of new items continue to be added to the line, including eyeglass holders, wallets, wristlets, makeup pouches, composition notebooks, zippered ID cases, flip flops, reusable shopping bags, key ring holders, overnight bags, backpacks, laptop sleeves, e-book carriers, and suitcases with wheels and handles.
The biggest strength of the line is functionality. The bags always look stylish, yet have enough pockets for storage. One of the three bags I own is the Villager, which has six roomy, inner pockets, and two on the outside, one that zips, and one that is easily accessible, great for your cell phone, lip saver, or keys. The Villager is my choice for longer trips, although many totes are available that will nicely fit your travel needs. My bag has been stepped on while on the floor of an airplane, and after a machine wash and dry, it looks not only clean, but it looks perfect. There is a board tucked into a notch at the bottom of each bag to help hold its shape, so after the wash and drying is finished, all you need to do is replace that piece, and the bag looks fine. The colors continually change, so new designs are always available in bold and bright patterns, and there are ample conservative designs and color combinations too.
Made in the US
The home office is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the heart of the Midwest. They are made in the US, so we Americans can feel patriotic while shopping. The company is committed to excellence, quality, and dependable customer service, plus the designs are exclusive. They have earned their sterling reputation as leaders in the gift industry because the line of items keeps growing, and people cannot seem to get enough of the stylish, quilted cotton handbags with fabrics and trims.
The products are popular with young college-aged women who need suitcases, backpacks, or laptop bags, but many older women can be seen sporting these handbags and wallets as well. The wide range of color combinations makes them irresistible.
I also have a small black handbag, about six inches wide, with a tiny red and white trim, and two small handles that drop about four inches. Despite its small size, it has three inside pockets. I wouldn’t use it for a formal occasion where a clutch would be more appropriate, but I do like to use it for more dressy affairs, as it is roomy enough for a hairbrush, wallet, a small makeup bag, your keys, and other essentials.
Vera Bradley Foundation for Beast Cancer
I was also amazed at the array of philanthropic causes these wonderful souls support. The main charity they concentrate their energies on is their foundation for breast cancer, to fund research for a cure. The leaders began raising funds for breast cancer when their friend and co-worker Mary Sloan lost her battle with this cancer in 1998.
Since then the company has raised more than ten million dollars and opened the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Lab at the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. They donate 10% of net proceeds from sales of all pink breast cancer awareness colors or patterns to programs that provide free mammograms, meals, and transportation for women undergoing difficult cancer treatments, and for cutting-edge medical equipment.
Another philanthropic cause the company participates in is the Ride for Riley, begun on July 10, 2010. A giant red wagon joins in a parade to represent the community’s hopes for healthy children now and in the future. Also, beginning in 2007, employees and their families were asked to help participate by walking, pulling a wagon, or riding a float in the Three Rivers Festival parade in Fort Wayne, IN, for a $20.00 donation. 100% of the proceeds go to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
A local radio station teamed up with the company to raise both funds and awareness for the Riley Hospital for Children. This hospital is committed to providing high-quality healthcare to children in an environment where they can be close to their families. This hospital is a national leader in cutting-edge research and medical education. Riley Hospital for Children provides services to any sick child, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. It is recognized as one of the best children’s hospitals in the US. You can learn more at the Riley Children's Health website.
Other Philanthropic Causes
Employees came together once again during the United Way Day of Caring, which began August 12, 1993, when a few people who wanted to help clean up the YWCA Campus did so. Over 250 volunteers showed up the first year.
This community effort has continued and evolved over the years. Now local non-profit organizations and community organizations have turned their attention to neighborhood revitalization, after-school youth programs, and painting and landscaping for other non-profit agencies. Employees get the day off with pay if they volunteer to help on the year’s chosen project. Last year a team of 150 employees helped beautify a local elementary school and raised funds to collect school supplies for the children.
As if the employees and employers did not do enough for worthy causes, in 2009 they pledged $300,000.00 to link 50 miles of biking and hiking trails across the Ft. Wayne area. This project is called Aboite New Trails. Pat Miller, VB’s co-founder, says, “We love the idea of connecting all of Fort Wayne to a better quality of life. This is a one-time chance to finish a trail corridor that improves health, safety, economic development, and community spirit. This is just too good to pass up.”
They also have an ongoing matching gifts program. They offer workers the chance to apply $1.00 for one matching dollar towards a gift of up to $100.00 per year. Any employees who serve on the board of directors may apply for a grant of up to $250.00 for any organization of their choice.
This generous company also gives both money and product donations to a wide variety of non-profit events across the whole state of Indiana. You may submit a request for charitable help for the cause of your choice by using the form available on their website if it meets the criteria listed there.
Products Change with the Times
I never dreamed the people at Vera Bradley did so much good for others when I began buying their products and decided to research the company. This is a very impressive list of activities, and it would seem this company would attract workers of high caliber since they are willing to give so freely of their time to help others.
So the next time you are admiring one of their lovely handbags, backpacks, wallets, or totes, you can feel good knowing that a percentage of the price is going to help the needy. I know you will purchase one of these colorful, sturdy products. They are simply too pretty and practical to pass up, and they make perfect gifts for the women in your life for special occasions.
Just an afterthought—when you order an item you like from Amazon, your chosen item and it's pattern are normally available in many colors. There are thumbnails to click on so you can "try" it out and see what colors you like best. Let's pretend you have a morning meeting and have a presentation on your laptop. It doesn't have to be in a purple and orange paisley laptop sleeve (though depending on your personality, that may express you well)! It will probably be available in black and white, or brown and green, something a bit tamer. Of course, many flowery and retro 1960s looks are available, too. Hallmark Crown card and gift stores usually carry VB items as well, but Amazon is cheaper and has more specials. These products make great gifts too or have fun just browsing all the great products.
© 2011 Jean Bakula