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Nashville designer Ceri Hoover officially started her accessories brand in 2013, after a few years of experimenting with a very different type of craft: pillow making. That eventually segued into a handbag and shoe brand that’s now carried at more than 150 stores throughout the country. In less than five years, the mother of one launched her own label, opened a flagship store in Nashville, and got her products into one of the country’s biggest chain stores: Anthropologie.
When you look at her stuff, it’s easy to see why Anthropologie was interested: The Miller Mules ($348) are peak Anthropologie, and so is her Mini Challon Crossbody Bag (on sale for $229.95). Her designs are simple, not fussy, and built to last. Nothing fancy — just really nice shoes and bags. Generally, prices range from the mid-$200s to $445.
Read on for how she built her brand from scratch, opened her own hometown store, and ended up inside one of the most recognizable retailers around (plus, take a look at the upcoming spring collection).
On starting an accessories business, seemingly out of nowhere.
I was obsessed with interiors when I became pregnant with my son Luke eight years ago. I wanted all of my house covered in these expensive designer fabrics. And I could not afford to have someone fabricate for me, so I taught myself how to do it. I had never even picked up a needle to sew a garment before this! But I ended up with a room full of pillows.
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I knew I wanted a product of my own. I dabbled in textile design. But I loved fashion — I love bags and always have loved bags. And I just looked down one day and was like, “Oh, this pillow cover that I’ve been making for several years now is actually a fold-over clutch.” It was actually a revelation and very exciting. I got into leather and learned as much as I possibly could. The true revelation was that people wanted to buy them!
On how she makes design decisions, and where she manufactures.
I focus a lot on the girls that work in my shop, and the girls I see out on the street and what they’re carrying and how they’re managing their daily lives. I want to make it as simple as possible while still feeling chic. Every detail is with full intention, especially when you’re trying to create a bag that can move from day to night.
In terms of shoes, I try to think about what I want my closet to look like, and I want to keep it as minimal as possible. Not minimalistic, but as few pairs as possible. And I also wanted a little height — I’m 5’3” but I‘m also lugging tons of bags all over the place, and I wanted a shoe that I could literally not have to kick off my feet when I walk in the door that evening.
The guy who makes these heels hand carves them in LA, and he’s a little more old school and [tends to do] more ornate finishing touches. I just like the striking contrast between the suede and the wood heel. I wore the Cecelia to a Christmas party, and before that had not worn a pair of three-inch heels in a while — I truly can’t tell you the last time I’ve done that — and I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by the end of the evening.
On what it’s like living and working in Nashville.
Nashville is fantastic. It’s a very welcoming city and a great design community. I recently opened a flagship here and that’s been so wonderful. I was looking for a small little sliver of space for the past year and a half and I finally found it. Nashville is great, and running a business here is so doable. You have so many people that want to reach out and help. It certainly can be done.
I’ve been working pretty hard on apparel, and it’s only available at my flagship. I really want to keep it exclusive to my store. I work with a very small factory here in Nashville, and I like to keep it close to home. I really want to have that Nashville-based product. It’s great, keeping things as local as possible — but I do know that I need to go to Brooklyn or LA for certain pieces.
On how she got into Anthropologie.
Anthropologie has a huge cult following, and honestly it just gave me confidence — it was one of those check boxes. There are so many boxes I haven’t checked off yet that I’m still pushing for, but that was one of them. I’ll never forget that day: It was exhilarating.
They’re great to work with. They’re personable, and they really want to get to know the designer. But you need to be able to produce consistently. When you have that confidence, they’re on board.