Let’s face it: air travel sucks. Not only do you have to shed your shoes and sweater at TSA, but that 10 minutes you spent carefully organizing your carry-on is all for nothing because as soon as you pull out your laptop, everything else dumps mercilessly all over the dirty floor.
Tired of schlepping multiple items of hand luggage when flying, Fiona Kempton decided to design a tech-friendly handbag for herself. “I basically had a shoemaker in Hong Kong make a design I’d come up with that had a central compartment that could fit my laptop,” the British transplant says. But it was only when an actor friend of hers brought the sample along to a QVC host audition (the panel loved it) that she realized she was onto something.
That was three years ago and since then Kempton & Co.’s Wiltshire carryall was named Best Green Handbag of 2012 at the SIxth Annual Independent Handbag Design Awards. Using reclaimed jute with gold hardware and lambskin scraps, the roomy tote with the hidden computer compartment has been a bestseller since birth. Elsewhere in the line lambskin totes and satchels feature built-in wallets and multiple interior pockets for iPads and the like. “I always keep technology in mind. I’ve heard one person refer to my bags as ‘urban toolboxes,'” Kempton says.
Wholesale prices range from $128 to $218, and most of her production is done in Mexico and China (though some simpler silhouettes are made in the U.S.). While one day Kempton would like to expand into heritage-inspired outerwear, for now she’s focusing on opening her first storefront in Brooklyn, NY, and enjoying the odd piece of fanmail. “Someone e-mailed me recently and asked if she could take me out to lunch the next time she’s in Brooklyn because she loves her bag so much!” she laughs.