I hadn’t shopped a full-fledged all-Vera-Bradley-all-the-time store since, well, never. I knew it as an accessories brand, having seen the perky prints in boutiques and gift shops, but I generally associated it with sorority girls and soccer moms. As a Baby Boomer, I don’t fit either of those demographics.
Then the nice corporate folks invited me to the grand opening of the new Vera Bradley store at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. Woodfield, if you don’t know it, is one of the largest shopping centers in the country with more than 300 stores and dozens of great restaurants.
What a revelation it was for me as I toured the store. For sure, it’s a color-bomb of paisleys, florals, geometrics and stripes, fashioned into all sorts of things you put things in. This store, the 111th, carries the entire Vera Bradley collection, including handbags, jewelry, fragrance and flip-flops.
I also found a palette of solids in neutrals and jewel tones. New fabrications of polyester, microfiber and leather (faux and genuine) join the iconic quilted cottons.
The travel line is enormous. In fact, as I learned, the company’s very first product back in 1982 was a duffle bag.
Vera Bradley was founded by gal-pals Patricia R. Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. While on vacation together, they noticed a definite lack of feminine-looking luggage. They set out to remedy the situation. With a $500 investment, they sewed their first cheery duffles. The bags were such a hit, they expanded into handbags, accessories and even more travel gear. Named after Barbara’s mother, the company had grown from a cottage industry to an international icon.
Today’s travelers can choose rolling spinner bags, wheeled duffles, backpacks and compartmentalized carry-ons. Many are machine washable. Preppy Poly, for example, is contemporary grouping of lightweight water-resistant bags and accessories in both patterns and solids.
The Miller Travel Bag is a spacious carry-on that tucks easily beneath an airline seat. It’s designed with six roomy slip pockets and a zip-top closure. The back of the bag features a pocket that unzips to become a trolley sleeve. It’s a long-time best-seller available in myriad colors, patterns and fabrications.
All solid pieces come with a secret surprise: They are lined with a compatible signature print.
“We added solids, but we stayed true to our heritage of prints by putting them on the outside,” said Harry Cunningham, Vera Bradley’s head of store development. “We still want to put a smile on someone’s face. When you open up one of these pieces, you smile.”
Travel bags also team with matching cosmetic bags, pill boxes, clutches, curling iron cases, luggage identification tags and other small storage items to keep you organized when living out of a suitcase.
“These are products designed by women for women,” Cunningham said. “They understand what women need.”
I’ll definitely be back to shop.
Photos by Bill Waldorf