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Modern Fashion: Deseri Kelley of DESERI On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today

An Interview With Candice Georgiadice

Heart — Leaders with heart exhibit relentless commitment to their brand, unwavering loyalty to their teams and passion for their purpose. It means putting your business first, creating a meaningful brand and serving the community as well.

Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?

In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Deseri Kelley.

Deseri has created a business marked with the relentless passion and skilled foresight of a true tastemaker. Her signature touch permeates every item in her collection, resulting in a brand that is the essence of its founder. She sees DESERI as an opportunity for connection and tangible impact, using her platform to inspire others to pursue their passions with confidence, and empowering them to enjoy the pleasures that premium quality design has to offer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I’ve always enjoyed fashion. I remember when I received my first designer handbag, I was nine (9) years old. I was at the Dooney & Bourke outlet with my family and my Aunt asked me if I wanted one of the bags that I had been modeling around the store. I think I said yes before she could finish her sentence. From that day forward my love for handbags began. The lower end brands to the higher end brands to the independent designers. Seeing how handbags, no matter the cost, made women of all ages happy has left an indelible imprint on me and encouraged me to create a brand for myself and that others will like also.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

While residing in Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France, my passion for luxury goods was developed over a four-year period. I gained a microscopic view of what sets luxury products apart. As a dedicated teacher, mother, and wife, I was moved to bring the benefits of premium fashion accessories to all women. Determined to reimagine the handbag as a work of art and an instrument of confidence, DESERI was created to empower luxury handbag buyers and celebrate their individuality.

Personally sourcing Spanish and Italian leather and ensuring the subtle visibility of my brand name embossed with care on each handbag, I work closely with European artisans to ensure no detail goes unnoticed. I am an example for all to dare to dream big and refuse to give up on their ambitions. Fueled by passion, informed by personal experience, and motivated to give the experience of artisanal luxury, handbags are indeed just the beginning for me.

Years ago, I had a vision for a fashion brand that would embody my effervescence and genuine passion for fashion. I wanted to create an accessible luxury brand that would inspire connection across the globe and be for everyone. I’m so happy that my vision has become a reality with DESERI.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My most interesting story since I began my career in fashion is to come; however, I am excited about DESERI and what we are developing right now. We are designing premium quality handbags with materials sourced and manufactured in the same factories as some of the more prominent luxury brands that sell at higher price points. DESERI is giving buyers the same premium quality at affordable price points. We are here to show the market that you can have a beautifully designed handbag made of the finest materials without paying thousands of dollars. DESERI handbags are designed in the USA and made by hand in Spain.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Believe in yourself — Faith allows you to do things that are unseen or previously thought to be impossible. When you believe in yourself, you can accomplish things others have done and potentially have the chance to accomplish things that haven’t been done before. I was an educator and did not attend fashion and design school like some of the designers you see and read about. The belief I had in myself and my ability to carry out my dream of creating my own luxury handbag line is why DESERI is here today.

2. Be resilient — There will always be challenges and setbacks in business. Those who win and those who have success also fall and pick themselves back up and fight through challenges. I learned first hand about the challenges of international shipping with my first orders. I planned for all orders to be delivered by a certain date and unfortunately the weather was not on my side. However, that’s just something that comes with the business and comes with the economy as a whole right now. But our customers have been fantastic. They were excited to order and they waited for the DESERI bags to arrive and those who have received them love to carry them.

3. Superior work ethic — I believe that hard work is the solution to many problems. Working smarter is always crucial to remember. However, there’s no reason you can’t work smart for more hours than another person who will work smart for fewer hours. Putting in the time, sacrificing, and going above and beyond in a way others are unwilling to do allows your business to have success. There are times when I am in the middle of a project and will look up and it’s 3am. I truly believe in never shutting down, always finding ways to improve your craft and yourself is key to success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The personality of DESERI makes the brand stand out. When we speak to our customers we speak the way we would speak to a friend. When customers submit questions or want to know more about a handbag we are there to call them and send them photos to really give them the experience of a friend helping them make a decision.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Think positively and be optimistic” — Your mind is powerful and your thoughts can determine the outcome of many situations. Always find the positive in a situation and stay focused on making the negatives into positives.

A perfect example is when the handbags were in production I needed a sample of each style for a photoshoot. This is not a normal request that is granted once production has begun. I could have thought that there is not any possibility I am going to get what I need in this short timeframe. However, I stayed positive and spoke with the factory and let them hear how optimistic I was and that I believed in them and that I know they will make it happen. They said they would get back to me in a day to let me know if it was feasible. The next day I received a phone call saying they will have the bags I requested in time for my photoshoot.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

One of the most fascinating developments is the new types of materials being developed with food compost. For example, Apple pectin is an industrial waste product, often discarded at the end of the manufacturing process. However, a new technology developed by Frumat allows the use of apple pectin to create sustainable and compostable materials. The company uses apple skins to create leather materials all while using a product that is normally thrown away.

Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?

We are invested in giving back to the community by empowering young women to be successful in business and all they aspire to be in life. DESERI partners with a local nonprofit to give back to the community and spread joy while serving as a mentor to young women. There are so many young people that yearn for the chance to meet successful individuals. If someone at DESERI has the opportunity to be an inspiration to them it could be a life changing experience. From a young girl I was always taught to give back and as a mother I have instilled this trait in my children. Not only am I the founder of DESERI, I am also one of the founders of the nonprofit organization, Children’s Wellness Circle. Giving back and bringing goodness to the world is very important to DESERI.

Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?

DESERI considers the impacts of the products we purchase from suppliers and the impacts they have on the people and the communities who create them. Oftentimes companies only look to the factory producing the final product. However, we make it our standard form of practice to visit the factories and meet with the suppliers of our materials as well. It is very important to us that our products are ethically sourced and exceed the ethical standards.

Fast fashion has an advantage, that it is affordable for most people, but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?

Fast fashion offers affordable prices and instant gratification to buyers. It also allows them to be up to date with the fast changing trends, as well as the democratization of stylish clothing. However, fast fashion causes excess pollution, waste, the promulgation of a “disposable” mentality, low wages, and unsafe workplaces. DESERI is a brand that creates premium quality designs that are timeless and high quality. Our bags are also handmade in Spain with carefully selected leathers, each of our pieces are intended as a work of art that reflects the skill of the artisan. Sourcing materials that are quality, while ensuring the designs are on trend but still classic is the goal at DESERI.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”. Please share a story or example for each.

Heart — Leaders with heart exhibit relentless commitment to their brand, unwavering loyalty to their teams and passion for their purpose. It means putting your business first, creating a meaningful brand and serving the community as well.

Empathy — To have success empathy is key. You have to be inclusive and empathetic, willing to listen and learn from those around you. Taking a genuine interest in what your consumers are asking for by understanding their wants and needs and transferring it to the finished product. Respecting the opinions of those around you and treating them with respect is necessary.

Think unconventionally — When you think unconventional you are elevating your brand. Your brand will create things people love but were not expecting. Your team will be more enthusiastic about the products your brand sells if you are doing things differently and not in a conventional way. I am a prime example of unconventional. My start was in education and before I started DESERI, I did not have any formal fashion training. However, I am here today to be an example of an unconventional thinker and leader who found success.

Leading by example — One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is the responsibility of knowing every single role within your company. You can have marketing, finance, or operations departments as a business owner. But regardless of the different departments associated with your company, as the owner and leader, you must understand everyone’s roles and responsibilities. A clear understanding of every role within your business allows you always to know how your business is performing to ensure success. As a business owner, you wear many hats, but you also have the opportunity to create your platform for success.

Connection — An emotional bond and trust is the key to a successful brand. Fashion purchases are emotionally driven. If your customers feel a strong emotional connection to the brand you are going to benefit from their loyalty which will give your brand a competitive advantage. The identity of DESERI is a direct representation of myself and the brand values which allows me to connect with women all over the world, just as the brand connects. Elegant, fashionable, optimistic and confident are traits that are in line with the brand personality. DESERI products bring confidence, style and a vibrant personality to buyers. Our customers are the savvy businesswoman, the stylish and trendy college student, or the stay-at-home mom, who all feel connected to the luxury lifestyle they deserve. From business boardrooms to fun weekends, every DESERI handbag is designed to make women feel their best — because when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, anything is possible.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

Diversity and inclusion. It takes a lot of research to find black women owned brands. And most of these brands only a handful of individuals have heard of. As well as diversity in big fashion houses. You do not see many minorities in larger roles in the fashion industry. Inclusivity is necessary in the hiring process as well as in the company’s day to day. I’ve seen one retailer as a changing force on this topic. They have been promoting their black owned brands and it’s been a nice addition. However, we need more emphasis on promoting female and minority owned brands and designers. I am not seeking to bring change to only benefit my brand but to the fashion industry as a whole.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Food, shelter and full access to education and medical care for children. Many times when you think of homelessness you immediately envision an adult who has lost everything and is in need of assistance. Each year there are over 2 million children that are homeless due to no fault of their own. They deserve a chance to find success in the world too and didn’t choose the life of homelessness. I would focus on ending child homelessness and ensuring education and medical care at all levels is accessible.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

DESERI can be followed via our website,

Instagram — @deseriofficial

YouTube — @deseriofficial

Twitter — @deseriofficial

Pinterest — @deseriofficial

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Modern Fashion: Deseri Kelley of DESERI On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.