Skin in the Game

“I realized that a handbag doesn’t have to be a big brand for it to be beautiful and functional and interesting,” she said. That insight stuck with her. After she graduated from FIT, she moved home to Pennsylvania to launch a leather handbag company from her parents’ basement, designing and crafting each one by hand. She called her fledgling company, Tesoro the Italian word for “treasure.” From the start, she was a perfectionist: she pored over the colors and textures of every hide she bought. She obsessed over each measurement, cut, and stitch. She thought and rethought the exact placement of every rivet and snap. Her handbags have an architectural precision, with sharp, clean lines and angles. Soon, sales were brisk enough for her to open a small shop an hour’s drive from Philadelphia. This past summer, she moved to South Street, a popular shopping thoroughfare in the city. For Reed, the new retail store has been a perfect fit. “Leather’s really tactile,” she says. “People want to smell it and feel it. Having a retail space really changed the trajectory of my business.”
In Tesoro’s Philadelphia store, shoppers can peruse the handbags while admiring hanging hides.
Customers often pop into the back to see her works in progress, including the tools and materials she uses to create them. She chats with them about her ethically sourced leather, which she considers essential to her brand. It is purchased from American companies that protect the safety of their workers and follow sustainable environmental practices. Reed will make a bigger leap in her business soon. Even at peak production, she’s never produced more than seven pieces in any given style—a number that has been limited primarily by her time. After exhaustively searching more than 75 manufacturers, she found one that can deliver her designs at a slightly larger scale, enabling her to offer a few dozen pieces in her most popular styles. Reed knows that these calculated risks are what it takes to succeed. As much as she longs for a vacation and would love to slow down for a moment, she is even more passionate about building a business that matters. “It’s not just about making handbags,” she says. “It’s about making functional bags for women who want something in their lives that makes them feel beautiful and intelligent, that goes with everything they have, and that is made consciously.”
BESTSELLER: The Audrey, a simple, angular handbag, is a perennial favorite for its beauty and versatility. It can be worn as a clutch, a cross-body, or a fanny pack.