DisC x YouInc Presents: 10 Questions with Ela & Martin Aldorsson of Ela Accessories

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About Different Is Cool x YouInc: DisC and YouInc have collaborated on a series of profile pieces featuring Canadian entrepreneurs in non-traditional, creative careers [ie. fashion, visual & performing arts, social enterprise]. Through these profiles, we endeavour to break down stereotypes, inform our audience about entrepreneurship and provide perspectives on how business owners have followed their dreams whilst maintaining their intrinsic individuality.

Ela Accessories' Founders: Ela & Martin Aldorsson. Photo: Marayna Dickinson/Alace Photos
Ela Accessories’ Founders: Ela & Martin Aldorsson.
Photo: Marayna Dickinson/Alace Photos

 

About Ela Accessories:

The basis of ela, an accessories brand co-founded by Ela and Martin Aldorsson, is the idea of humble luxury, where refined and sophisticated silhouettes strive to showcase, rather than upstage, the wearer. From subtle asymmetry to luxe hardware and leather, every design element is infused with a high level of craftsmanship, materials and a signature aesthetic.

Ela handbags are a major force in the approachable luxury market and have been worn by fashionable women everywhere – fashion luminaries including Nausheen Shah & Nelia Belkova, celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift, Jessica Alba, Jordana Brewster & Meghan Markle and have been featured in editorials in Vogue, InStyle, People, Harper’s Bazaar, Fashion and Elle Canada.

A recent Ela brand highlight was having Canada’s Leading Lady, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, carry Ela bags throughout her March, 2016 State Visit to Washington, DC while accompanying her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and to the G7 Summit in Japan.

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau [carrying an Ela Mini-MILCK clutch] with recording artist The Weeknd at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. March 9, 2016.
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau [carrying an Ela Mini-MILCK clutch] with recording artist The Weeknd at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. March 9, 2016. Photo: Hannah Thompson/Canada2020
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, carrying an ela Mini-MILCK Flower Party clutch, with her children and husband Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Washington, DC, March, 2016.
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, carrying an ela Mini-MILCK Flower Party clutch, with her children and husband Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Washington, DC, March, 2016.

 

10 Questions with Ela & Martin Aldorsson of Ela Accessories:

1.     ela Accessories is now in it’s 6th year of business. What are your 3 top learnings from your first 5 years?

  1.  Building a brand is a marathon and not a race

  2. Today’s brands are built together with your customers

  3.  Learn, adapt and change strategy with the demands of the marketplace 

2.     ela Accessories is your first entrepreneurial endeavour. What was the impetus for starting your own business?

Ela: Both Martin and I come from very entrepreneurial families so to have our own business was always the ultimate goal. We have both spent almost 10 years working for other companies in the business so we were ready for the venture. I’ve always been attracted to accessories and falling into the handbag world was quite organic. While working at Hermès in public relations, I developed a great understanding and interest in leather goods and the ultimate craftsmanship. Later, my career moved me to London (UK) where I worked in handbag and accessory wholesale for Burberry. The reason for launching a handbag brand was the opportunity that we saw in the affordable luxury segment of the business that bridged the gap between fast fashion and luxury. We wanted to offer pieces that were high in quality, authentic in design, functional and approachable that I myself was looking for.

Gwyneth Paltrow carrying an ela MILCK stud clutch with designer Tom Ford, 2013. Photo: ela
Gwyneth Paltrow carrying an ela MILCK stud clutch with designer Tom Ford, 2013. Photo: ela

3.     Fashion is an industry that is always changing. How does ela accessories maintain dedication to its brand DNA while embracing change?

We have a brand philosophy that we call “humble luxury”, which means that we always try to design accessories that showcase, rather than upstage, the wearer. With this humble luxury philosophy in mind each season we update our signature styles such as the mini MILCK and MILCK clutch with the season’s theme while also mixing  “of the season” styles.

Lupita Nyong'o carrying an ela MILCK clutch in Lucky magazine editorial, March 2015. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier/Lucky
Lupita Nyong’o carrying an ela MILCK clutch in Lucky magazine editorial, March 2015. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier/Lucky

 

4.     Being an entrepreneur is more than a full time job, it’s a 24/7 job. As a married entrepreneurial couple with a young baby and an burgeoning business, how do you carve out downtime for your family?

Martin: The lines are blurred between life/work but that is the way we like it! The beautiful thing with being an entrepreneur is that it gives flexibility in the work-week and both Ela and I have made an effort to work more from home since we had our son Tate.

5.     Every entrepreneur goes through times when they doubt themselves and their business. How do you manage those times and manage to keep going?

Things will go wrong sometimes, and there will be setbacks, that is part of life and part of building something from nothing, but we always try to focus on the big picture and keep on working hard.

6.     Ela’s brand is defined by the term “humble luxury.” Would you expound on what that means exactly?

Humble luxury to us is a lifestyle and a state of mind that translates to everything we do on daily basis; from the way we prefer to listen rather than speak, to the way we keep our heads up high even when facing adversity, to the way we learn to respect an opinion that differs from ours. This humble luxury blueprint we keep in mind when designing our accessories and in the way we run the business.

ela mini-MILCK clutch & saddle bag. Photo: Marayna Dickinson/Alace Photos
ela mini-MILCK clutch & saddle bag. Photo: Marayna Dickinson/Alace Photos

7.     What is ELA Accessories’ BHAG [Big Hairy Audacious Goal]?

To grow with our ela customers and expand into a lifestyle brand.

8.     Imagine your dream dinner party guest list – which people [current or historical] would you invite and why?

Martin:

  • Richard Branson – I have read a few of his books and I like his approach to life and business – he seems to follow his gut feel a lot when making decisions and keeps his glass half full at all times.
  • Bjorn Borg – Being Swedish, having dinner with Bjorn Borg would be epic. I would ask him about his battles with McEnroe and why he decided to retire at age 25 and leave Sweden for Monte Carlo
  • President Obama – he would be a great dinner compadre

Ela:

  • Lella & Massimo Vignelli. I’ve heard of the Vignelli’s husband/wife duo before as they were responsible for designing all of the maps and signage for the NYC subway system, but seeing their story and design process in the documentary Design Is One, a few years ago was incredibly inspiring. They are the world’s greatest design partnership in my eyes. As Vignelli’s put it “if you can’t find it, design it.”

10.  What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To continue to build a healthy business and to provide a great quality of life for our family.

For more information on ela Accessories and Ela & Martin Aldorsson, please visit ela’s website by clicking here.

  • I’m a big fan of both Ela handbags and Ela & Martin Aldorsson. When good, hardworking people succeed, we all win.