They add, “The designers really wanted [Aupen] to be product and design first. The design needs to be strong enough to move commercially, to be on celebrities, and that’s all they have to worry about. They don’t have to worry about, like, their camera angles.”
The relationship between the cofounders, the commercial director, and the founding designer, also seem to reflect the principle of fukinsei: The commercial director, who lives in Singapore, joined forces with his longtime friend, the Brooklyn-based founding designer, to launch the business in 2022. While the designer refined the Fearless, each edition slightly more seamless, more fluid than the last, the commercial director was toiling away to land the bags in the hands of America’s most conspicuous consumers. Elegant, organic design meets a mastermind in marketing: the perfect balance.
Utilizing the commercial director’s background in luxury fashion marketing (they previously worked at an agency that introduced American and European brands to Asian markets), Aupen is seeking the ever-elusive middle ground between luxury and fast fashion. They applauded Telfar’s Bag Security Program, which democratized the drop model, ensuring that everyone who wanted to a buy the Telfar shopper—a.k.a. the Bushwick Birkin—could get their hands on one. Similarly, Aupen does not plan to discontinue any styles or issue any limited edition runs. As long as there is demand, the director says, they will keep producing each collection.
“Aupen is seasonless, and we want it to be inclusive,” they add. “We want people to be able to afford it and have it—not like, afford it and then go resell it.”
Aupen will also be expanding beyond handbags. The brand launched jewelry in late 2023 and has so far found fans in the loyal It girls they’d previously courted, including Dakota Johnson, who was spotted in a pair of Wave ($140) earrings while promoting her Saturday Night Live episode earlier this year.
The design collective is “not following the traditional structure,” says the commercial director, referring to the brutal fashion schedules that have caused so many designers to burn out. “Today the design collective may see a gap in the market for this particular trend that no other brand is doing. But it’s not like they have to follow a runway schedule or Fashion Week. It’s great because they might have, like, three SKUs, but we know that these are what [customers] want.”
With more categories in the works—including apparel and shoes—Aupen hopes to find even greater success with its unconventional, “eco-luxury” model. It’s unclear at this point whether the young brand will sink or swim, but clearly, they’re not afraid of a little risk. Or PETA.
Sam Reed is Glamour’s senior entertainment editor.
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