Life & Culture

Why we all want Meghan Markle's handbag

Every season has its own It bag; we talk to the women at the helm of one the most fashionable up-and-coming handbag brands


Every season has its own It bag and, thanks in part to Meghan Markle, this season’s is small and very portable. “Cross-body bags are the fastest growing style in the last five years,” Devina Dicarlo tells me. She, with business partner and friend Sarah Auerbach,founded Aurora London which is riding high on this particular trend right now.

Aurora’s Gigi handbag is top of the fashion editors’ list of must have cross body bags, but Dicarlo and Aurerbach forecast this trend long before the new Duchess of Sussex got involved.

Auerbach (a long-time JC reader: “I’m so excited the JC want to interview us!”) and Dicarlo have real fashion pedigree. They met while working in high-end beauty PR for Givenchy fragrances and between them have worked for Clarins, Shisedo, Dior and Elisabeth Arden, but knew that they wanted to launch and run their own global brand, not just work for one. “We wanted to take control of what we wanted to do,” says Dicarlo, crediting the “enthusiasm of youth and no responsibilities.” So they set up communications firm Fresh Attitude in 2007, melding Auerbach’s marketing skills and Dicarlo’s PR skills.

“We built it from the ground up,” says Auerbach, “and had to hustle to get clients.” They ultimately ending up working with many former clients, although it wasn’t easy to persuade them to come on board. “You quickly find out when you’re on your own the contacts and relationships you thought you had mean nothing.”

While their enthusiasm remained high, both women quickly found their responsibilities increasing. Launching Fresh Attitude at 30 (Dicarlo) and 27 (Auerbach), it wasn’t long before children came along. They now have two each, aged four and two and eight and six respectively. Auerbach spends her Sundays taking her children to and from cheder.

“Obviously both our lives changed but our ambitions didn’t,” Auerbach says. “Part of the reason we went out on our own was to find something that worked with our lives.” It was then that they spotted a gap in the market.

“Both of us are handbag lovers and have big archives of designer handbags,” admits Dicarlo but notes that beautiful, expensive totes aren’t always the most practical nor are they affordable for everyone. The Gigi is a snip at £110 by comparison.

Aurora London launched in 2014 “on a shoestring”, using money from Fresh Attitude to fund it and with just one bag, the Willow. This ‘cross-body bag cum clutch’ is still one of their most popular bags and Dicarlo says there was a “huge appetite” for it when it launched. They use premium quality leather, but “people were astounded by the price” and every bag comes with its own dust bag, an attention to detail you usually only find with higher end brands. They operate solely online, cutting overheads dramatically. “We’re selling online-only a product that people usually want to see and feel and try but returns are exceptionally low”.

They also offer discreet monogramming on their bags, a “bespokeability” which is very popular. “People go mad for it,” says Auerbach, “you see lots of orders for presents, like batmitzvahs”. This again is testament to the combination of affordability and luxury.

“The rise in batmitzvah presents in insane,” says Auerbach. “ We know this because of the gift messaging and in fact my children go to school in Belsize Park and certainly the older kids whose parents I know are like: ‘I’ve got a batmitzvah coming up, can I come round and see what stock you’ve got, what can I do?’ There’s a range of bag prices there, so you can find something – it’s a very difficult age, 12, it’s hard to know what to buy.”

Their best-selling Gigi bag has been compared to the Gucci Soho (which has the much heftier price tag of £805). “Our interiors are exclusive to us we don’t use off-the-shelf designs,” says Auerbach but admits that that “lots of bags look similar, there’s only a finite number of possible designs, but part of the difference is in the details.”

The details here include gold zips and buckles, that optional monogramming, internal card slots and just enough room to carry around your iPad mini, makeup bag, purse and phone.

“As mums as well as business women we asked ourselves what do we use our bags for?” so they design bags for themselves and for their target market: women in their 30s to mid-50s who “have spending power but also have responsibilities”.

Another reason for their success is down to what they describe as their “tight edit” of bags classic designs in ever popular colours with seasonal limited edition colourways, to avoid the curse of ubiquity and build up the hype. Burgundy, for example, was initially launched as a limited edition colour but did so well they made it a permanent option and it is now their best-selling colour all year round.

Dicarlo calls herself an honourary Jew: “I’m Indian and married to an Italian but I grew up in Finchley and my family are jewellers. My dad was based in Hatton Garden with his own business for about 50 years so we were surrounded by the culture, so I feel like I’m an honorary Jew for that reason – by proxy! Just from where I grew up and what my father did and where he was based and all his customers were Jewish.”

Auerbach, a member of West London Synagogue, says they owe a lot to family and community support: “They want you to do well. Devina’s community as well. There’s a sense of: they want to support you, they want to support what you’ve done, and when they see the product and they like it that’s more reason for word of mouth”

The two women still do most of the PR and marketing for the brand themselves and so recognise names on order forms, and love seeing a repeat order. They’re big on social media. “What’s really amazing about Instagram, is the support,” says Auerbach. “When we first started four years ago we met with new bloggers and have watched eachother grow. There’s a real sense of community.”

Aurora London has grown year-on-year for the last three years and doubled in turnover. “We want to do more,” says Auerbach, “there’s so much more left to do; that’s what gets us up in morning.”

Her favourite bag is a two-tone Gigi while Dicarlo admits that she can’t live without her Santorini tote.

As for me, I’d be lost without my burgundy Gigi. What colour next?

Like this? Sign up for more with our JC Life newsletter, coming soon From fabulous recipes, to parenting tips;  travel and West End entertainment; insightful interviews and much more: there’s more to  the JC than news.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive