Eastern Spring 2009 : Page 8
HA y d e n -H A r n e t t Hacker sought for herself and rarely found: “high style, amazing quality, functionality, and a non-inflated price for all of the above.” Seven months later, Hayden-Harnett launched five leather handbag styles they’re still making, including the “Havana Hobo,” still their #1 seller. Hacker’s family back home proudly follows the progress of “the scrappy little company.” Nephew Ethan (age two) specializes in quality control, subjecting bags to extreme toy-toting stress, while the adults are outfitted in the expanding accessories line. In fact, three years after launch, Hayden-Harnett has more than 100 products, compared to the seven to nine typical for a company of its size. Financial independence gives the partners freedom to experiment, to move into new lines like shoes and apparel and to give customers the products and features they ask for. Hacker and Harnett endured the “chew ’em up, spit ’em out” world of the fashion industry’s corporate culture and wanted something different. Their company, like their partnership, is based on respect and support. Hayden-Harnett offers health care coverage and benefits to the 25 full-time employees. “I’d love to have the company be employee- owned in the future,” says Hacker. “Ben and I have everything we want from this world, including dream jobs. I’d really love to see HH be a true vested interest for our employees.” The hard-working design staff recruited from Argentina, Korea, San Francisco and Atlanta may share cramped quarters behind the Brooklyn retail store, but their passion for this work is tangible. “Our 8 Eastern team makes me so excited to go in to work every day,” says Hacker. “It sounds corny, but I’m totally serious.” She and Harnett see a long future for their company and aim to stay healthy. After an apprenticeship marked by late hours, take-out food and missed meals, they have a new dictum: “If we don’t cook it, we don’t eat it.” The design staff breaks to share lunch; brownies and cookies sweeten long afternoons. The company also feels a vested interest in the planet’s health. High-quality, pocketed “green bag” totes of 100% organic cotton use pigment dyes to showcase the work of young designers. Profits from each season’s “green bags” fund green-focused non-profits. “We don’t deal in exotic or hunted leathers like camel, deer, buffalo or ostrich,” says Harnett. He buys primarily South American hides from farmed animals which are tanned in upstate New York under U.S. law for envi- ronmental and worker safety. A linchpin of the company’s success is internet marketing and online sales, which increased 40% in 2008, a year of worldwide retail woes. A well-run Web site (hayden-harnett.com), blogs and personal e-mails create a cult following. Customer suggestions trigger new models. YouTube features provide nearly free advertising, while high-quality products and genuine customer care ensure loyalty and priceless word-of-mouth. Meanwhile, a contract with retailer Target for Hayden-Harnett designs in the $20-$60 range brings in new customers who may later move up the company line.