Tertoolen has always had the idea of designing a bag. “Out of her own frustration, but also because using a bag is often very clumsy," she says to FashionUnited. To put it to the test, she took to the streets and asked women if they had a pen that she could borrow. What followed was ‘a lot of twists and turns to get into the bag and often without the result of a pen.’ Tertoolen herself has a background as a designer and worked for TomTom in the field of the user interface, among others. “I find it interesting to design for people who are on the move because they have their attention somewhere else. You have to design very efficiently.” Although she's passionate about technology, she also thinks it's important that it is beautifully and elegantly incorporated into a product. With that in mind, she set to work on Minois' first bag.
Many prototypes followed, but Tertoolen knew she was doing fine when she attended Salone del Mobile in Milan three years ago with her first products. “People responded so enthusiastically. Every time they opened the bag, they laughed and knew immediately what it was for. That was the moment I decided to go for it.” By now, Minois customers are so used to the light in their bag that they are surprised when they use another bag and it doesn't have one. “It doesn't sound like something people need in a bag, but when they suddenly don't have it anymore, they miss it anyway.”
Minois combines elegance and technology
The Minois collection currently consists of two types of bags and purses, and a crossbody bag will be added soon. Only the bags have smart features, Tertoolen says. Finding a producer who was open to experimenting in the fairly traditional world of bags was quite a challenge. Eventually, Minois collaborated with a bag atelier in Italy that also produces for luxury brands: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. “To make a light in a bag is not so much the challenge, but to do it in a nice way and in a way that doesn't require extra effort, that's where the real challenge lies.” With the Minois bag, you don't have to press a button yourself - the light comes on automatically when you open it. “Together with the bag workshop, we've come up with a new way of producing it to make it look good. All the technology is incorporated into the leather so you don't actually see it. The leather is deformed and wrapped around the electronics.”
The bags currently have three features: the light, the possibility to charge a phone or tablet and the bag itself can be charged wirelessly via a dock that comes with the bag. The bag also shows how much battery it has left. The CEO indicates that Minois bags need a little more explanation than the average bag. “It's not complicated, but when you see it, you'll understand it right away.” That's why Tertoolen seeks a combination of online and physical retail. She is currently in talks with various retailers for the sale of the bags. “There are many consumers who want to see a bag in real life. They want to feel the leather or experience the features. That is very understandable. It's a new product so people will have questions. At the moment we are confident that things are going well in the store because for the retailer it is also important that there is little to worry about. Normally you don't have to charge a bag, so that's what comes with it.” Being able to experience the bag in real life is also important, according to Tertoolen, partly because on the website people sometimes don't realise that the bag has a light in it. “That is why we are currently working on videos to tell the story.”
For Minois, Tertoolen still has many dreams. She wants to go global with the brand but is currently focusing on Europe and the United States as she wants to have sales outlets in the big cities. The brand has just brought in the first point of sale: Margreeth Olsthoorn in Rotterdam. In addition, the expansion of the collection and the further sharpening of the concept of the bag is on Tertoolen’s agenda. “You can then think of extra features. The elegant combination of technology and a bag remains a challenge. It involves a lot of time, money and especially a lot of trial and error. The important thing is that the technology adds something to the daily life of the user.”
"Women and technology is a combination that is not always considered logical," says Tertoolen. She recognises that men and women look at technology differently, but it is certainly not because of disinterest. “Women look more at what a product brings them in daily life. People think a lot about men when it comes to technological innovations, and I think there's still a lot to be gained from women. It's a virgin territory.”
Photo credit: Minois
This article was previously published on FashionUnited.nl. Translation and editing: Andrea Byrne.