Duchy is a luxury handbag brand with the planet and premium materials at its very heart. Each handbag is uniquely designed in London and lovingly handcrafted in Italy, using sustainable, ethically sourced leather to create incomparable pieces that promise to be life-long investments – repositioning fashion as an art, not the fast-paced, trend-centric world it’s become.
Nicole Street and Wayne Gallant are the co-founders of Duchy. As seasoned entrepreneurs, the pair have explored a range of professional ventures previously, however Nicole’s love for fashion and handbags was ignited following a trip to Sicily in 2020; wandering through the streets of this beautiful island, the pair met a talented local couple who handcraft what they see to be the best quality leather bags in the world. Nicole and Wayne were truly fascinated with the process and adored the couple’s work – they had bags of character (in every sense) and a story that Nicole and Wayne fell in love with. With that, their entrepreneurial imaginations ran wild and Duchy was born.
Wayne is the thinker behind Duchy; with experience in sales and supporting start-ups, he understands how to strategise and proactively works to drive Duchy’s success. Meanwhile, as an FCCA Chartered Accountant specialising in helping start-ups grow, Nicole herself is well-positioned to nurture a successful business. Together, the couple are fearless and have unwavering confidence in all that Duchy has to offer, creating products that have been thoughtfully curated. Nicole says: ‘These bags aren’t made to fall to the backs of customers’ wardrobes – they’re redefining the worth of accessories in a throw-away society’. With Duchy, tradition and contemporary designs have been combined meaningfully.
Now, Duchy has a wide range of spectacular products, made in collaboration with the couple who first introduced Nicole and Wayne to truly unforgettable leather handbags. From backpacks to shoulder bags and other thoughtfully designed styles, Duchy endeavour to fulfil every handbag lover’s desires – whilst prioritising sustainability and quality. As the brand’s name would suggest, Duchy settle for nothing but the utmost luxury. Mirroring the royals’ values, Nicole and Wayne take tremendous pride in their commitment to elegance and regality; every detail on a Duchy bag has its place, from subtle, elegant finishing touches to the brand’s iconic silk scarves which add beautiful finesse to each product, nothing is created carelessly.
With this in mind, Duchy’s USP’s are clear: the brand uses sustainable, ethically-sourced materials and is built with a strong moral compass; the leather used by Duchy is a by-product which would otherwise be thrown away. Overall, Nicole and Wayne are whole-heartedly committed to making high quality leather goods more accessible and obtainable. Meanwhile, every bag is handmade – nothing is mass-produced as Duchy is positioned as an industry disruptor, committed to expanding slow fashion through timeless designs. It’s this that Nicole and Wayne feel is the secret to Duchy’s success: ‘We’ve recognised that people are caring more for the environment than ever before, whilst fast-fashion is finally being recognised as a damaging practice. Ultimately, we’ve created a beautiful solution that people are wanting.’
Having started the business in 2020, amid an unprecedented global pandemic, Duchy is of course in its infancy and the venture has been anything but seamless for Nicole and Wayne. Travel restrictions prevented them from visiting their creators personally, samples faced unavoidable delays and reaching the mass market virtually became a challenge in and of itself. Meanwhile, the couple struggled to find suitable teams to work alongside whilst growing the business, encountering unexpected teething problems early on. Nevertheless, Nicole and Wayne persisted and are now incredibly proud of the business’ success. Nicole says: ‘We’ve laid strong foundations for success and with restrictions finally easing, Wayne and I see endless potential for Duchy moving forward. With the right team now in place and infinite creativity, we’re set for big things’. Among Nicole and Wayne’s proudest successes? Being featured in a range of national and international publications during such an early stage of the business’ development; from the Daily Express to the New York Times Post and more, the worth of their bags is already being recognised globally.
Similarly, Duchy are delighted to have worked with influencers over recent months, using social media to connect with a wider range of potential customers. Influencers are, in their very essence, a modern-day marketing tool and by embracing their worth Duchy have reaped undeniable rewards. Offering insight into one of their most successful collaborations, Nicole says: ‘We collaborated with one influencer and the handbag she posted sold out overnight – we never saw that kind of response coming. We immediately knew that influencers were a worthwhile resource and we’ve been organising collaborations ever since. People engage with influencers and trust their recommendations, it’s most definitely something commercial businesses should be considering in 2021.’
Meanwhile, Nicole and Wayne are incredibly proud of Duchy’s most successful innovations – it’s luggage collection and bundles. Having researched leather holdalls extensively and being astonished by their prices, Nicole and Wayne tapped into the market by creating a more affordable, yet equally luxurious, option – something which proved to be particularly successful as ‘staycations’ were soaring in popularity. The feedback that Duchy has received so far has been exceptional and as co-founders, this has made every ounce of hard work worthwhile. Ultimately, Nicole and Wayne feel that if you can sell handbags at a time when people have no need for them, you can achieve anything when you come out the other side. With that being said, the pair are ecstatic to see what lies around the corner for Duchy.
With these personal lessons in mind, Nicole and Wayne’s pieces of advice for fellow business owners are simple: ‘Never give up, always make sure you believe in what you’re doing, have ‘back up’ funds at the ready, make time for yourself and embrace any advice that comes your way’. The quote ‘Stop trying to skip the struggle, enjoy the process’ has driven their determination since the launch of Duchy and they hope that this will inspire fellow entrepreneurs who would like to explore their own personal ventures.
When it comes to what’s next for Duchy, exciting things are on the horizon. Nicole and Wayne are planning to launch a men’s accessory range and they truly feel there are no limitations with regards to the areas they could pursue. Duchy is most definitely a brand to watch.