Timeless Fashion


The word heirloom conjures up ideas of antiques, priceless items passed down from generation to generation. While the accessories created by the China-based Heirloom are anything but old, the bags are unquestionably timeless. With sophisticated designs that showcase the brand’s attention to detailed quality, Tiffany Wu and Lynn Lu have created a line of exceptional leather products that will never go out of style.

In 2006, Wu and Lu started dreaming about designing travel accessories for jet-setting women who appreciate the stylish things in life. When the pair met in university, they bonded over their childhood growing up as “parachute children”, shuttling between the States and Asia to visit family split by an ocean. These similar backgrounds as frequent flying youth became their inspiration for Heirloom, a brand that skillfully blends their Eastern heritage with their Western lifestyles.

It took three years of living in factory towns in Southern China, dreaming up logos and drafting brand stories before their Heirloom dream became a reality. In 2009, Wu and Lu opened their flagship store on Xinle Lu. Surrounded by other boutiques, the brand immediately stood out for its handmade versatility and urban elegance. “Heirloom bags are cute and functional for women with refined taste,” says Wu. “The Heirloom woman is sexy and confident. She knows what she wants.”

As the two are Heirloom women personified, they have a pretty good idea of what exactly that is. The day after Channel Young, a Chinese-language lifestyle television station, featured Heirloom products on their station, women queued up outside their store and the brand experienced its first run on their bags.

Lu and Wu attribute Heirloom’s overnight success to their great working relationship. They met when Wu left her native New York for university in California, Lu’s home, and the pair fuses their bi-coastal styles to create a line of products that are appealing to an international audience. And, it doesn’t hurt that making handbags is in Lu's blood.

“My family has always made bags, so we always had tonnes lying around the house,” she says. “It’s what I grew up with.” Her family owns the factory in Guangzhou where Heirloom handbags are produced, and Lu lives nearby so she can oversee the sample room where the bags are stitched by hand and ensure that every product meets their high standards.

Designed to withstand the perils of international travel, Heirloom bags undergo rigorous testing by the jet-setting friends and partners. “We wanted to make sure our bags are multi-functional, so we spent a lot of time designing their interior,” says Wu. “Heirloom bags should be easy to use with multiple pockets so you can carry a lot and still keep things organised.”

When designing the brand’s accessories and handbags, Lu finds inspiration in her own travel experiences as she carries the latest Heirloom designs everywhere for real-life testing. “When I’m on the run, travelling or just really busy, I try to stop to think about what’s annoying about this bag or what’s great about that bag,” says Lu. “Sometimes the shoulder strap needs to change or the interior needs different pockets. I like to use our own bags for a while and pick at the design until I have it perfect.”

Wu also auditions the bags before they hit the shelves. “We collaborate on everything. Lynn sends samples up to me and I give her feedback. I call her every day – sometimes five times a day! – with advice,” Wu laughs. Heirloom bags usually go through an average of three redesigns, incorporating both of the partners’ critiques, before hitting the shelves at their stores in China, Taiwan and Australia.

Lu and Wu have poured their heart, soul and creative energy into Heirloom and the dedication shows through in their products, but they both agree the pay-off of building a bag from scratch is definitely worth the effort. “Even if you’re pulling all-nighters or pulling out your hair from being so stressed from the pressure, at the end of the day, all the work is worth it,” says Lu. “You could be working just as hard for someone else, but it’s your ideas you’re working on.”

Wu finishes Lu’s thought, “And the satisfaction you get from running your own company. It’s just worthwhile.”

Heirloom. 78 Xinle Lu, near Xiangyang Lu. Tel: 5403 6930. Web: www.heirloomhandbags.cn

Update: Heirloom Handbags opened a new store in Xintiandi. 

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