Taryn Zhang
                  New York

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Briefcases & Handbags for the Corporate Professional
Taryn's Design Diary

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In 2009, a young lawyer who had been working for a venture capital firm in California flew back to her home state of New York to sit for the bar. She grew up in New York, went to college there, and it made sense to get licensed in New York in case her law practice ever took her home. In her old bedroom at her parents' place while cramming last minute, two days before the exam, she sketched out a couple of handbags. There was no reason for her to sketch handbags. She was never the fashion-forward type. As she sketched, she thought, "I think I can make this, like, with a needle and thread."

The thought would not leave her alone. Even during the bar exam, she kept thinking about how to deconstruct the purse design into basic shapes for patterns. There was a break for lunch midway through the exam, and she used that time to sketch patterns. The minute she returned home, she rummaged through her parents' cabinets for fabric to start sewing, at first by hand because she did not know how to use a sewing machine. The initial handbag results were not good exactly, but much better than expected. (Also, fortunately, she passed that bar.) All this motivated her to continue.

When she returned to California, she announced to her husband that she was going to make handbags. Here was a man who had known her almost a decade by that time, and not once had he ever heard her bearing any interest at all in handbags or design or sewing or fashion. Did she even know how to sew? She said yes, with needle and thread she could, but that method was proving to be quite inefficient. She needed to get a sewing machine. So they bought a sewing machine that occupied their dining room table for months. The young lawyer taught herself how to sew.

What she really needed, though, was a factory. She decided to teach herself everything one needed to know about designing, manufacturing, and the industry, which she documented in her blog, Taryn's Design Diary. Factory after factory, failure after failure, slowly she learned the crucial lessons to launching a line of handbags and archived her trials and errors publicly on that blog. She wanted people to see, step by step, what it took, what it continues to take to materialize a dream, that no woman wakes up one morning in perfect hair and makeup and says, "ta da!"

Before starting Taryn Zhang, that young lawyer basically had two bags for work: an old, dowdy laptop bag from her law school days that she used for case files and a slightly better looking but still quite tacky black briefcasey bag she got on discount at a department store. Soon, when she went to the courthouse, attended conferences, meetings, or met with other female professionals, she zoned in on their bags. It seemed consistently, no matter how sharp they dressed, they did not seem to pay much attention to their briefcases. Unlike TV show corporations and law firms where women all carried Birkins, real women at real corporations and law firms carried rather drab, manly, and boring briefcasey bags. And from that observation, the idea to tailor a brand to women professionals was born. The mission of Taryn Zhang New York is to put our bags in the hands of real women at real corporations and law firms.

While that young lawyer was still stuck in California for work (the "day job"), she dreamt of going home to New York. New York would always have her heart. She spent her childhood and adolescence there; she went to college there; she met her husband there in New York City; her family lives there; many a good friend of hers is there; and so like shooting out an arrow attached to a line toward the point you want to climb, Taryn Zhang the company was founded and incorporated in New York State. She hoped in that way, the company would lead her home, back to New York someday.

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