The Setback That Launched Ariane Gold’s High-End Handbags

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“I was laid off in June of 2015,” Ariane Gold, founder of the high-end customizable handbag, goldno.8 begins.  She doesn’t say this with a sense of shame or guilt or regret. “I was lucky enough to realize that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me, and in fact, it was.” 

‘Best thing’ is more than a very fair description. For Gold, this setback unintentionally kicked off a summer – and an idea - that would change her life forever.

Ariane Gold is a seasoned vet in the high-end fashion game. Prior to launching her own company, Gold served nearly 20 years as a designer at some of the world’s top brands, including Isaac Mizrahi and Ralph Lauren.  

“I was at Ralph Lauren at its height of success. And then I was there as it sort of, I don’t want to say its downfall, but you know, I was there to a point where they were laying off a big chunk of the staff. So, I was part of a round of layoffs in 2015,” she explains.

Gold, a single mother in New York City raising two young boys, was faced with the task of figuring out how – and where - to land after the layoff. As the daughter of two entrepreneurs herself, Gold always knew entrepreneurship was part of her end game. But the path to starting her own business wasn’t a clear cut, next step for Gold. Having spent so much of her time in corporate America dedicated to other labels, she felt out of touch with herself, her desires, and her goals. It quickly became clear for Gold that she wanted to use the layoff as an opportunity to reconnect with herself.

It was really cool to...get out of the box and let my creative juices flow again for myself.

“I started to realize that wow, being at one company for 15 years, you really are in a bubble. You are in a box, actually. It was really cool to sort of get out of the box and let my creative juices flow again for myself, and start to think about what I love, what resonates with me and what I really am passionate about.”

Gold used her newfound, unstructured freedom to engage her mind and body in diverse ways the cubicles of corporate America wouldn’t allow her to do. She went for runs, attended SLT classes, and spent time with friends. With her children away for the summer, she used her time to walk around art galleries and got lost in the city  - a benefit her old life hadn’t afforded her the time to do. 

“What amazes me about New York is that you can walk down the same street for the hundredth time and discover something new,” she describes.

Though these moments were far from the 9-5 grind of her business hustle, they gave Gold the new kind of relationship she wanted with herself, and provided the perfect backdrop to get Gold’s mind thinking in new ways. Along the way, Gold realized three major truths about her career and the world of fashion: she had no desire to do business the ‘usual way’, women wanted a voice in their fashion designs, and that she could build a brand that would be that bridge. Before she realized it, the summer of ‘me’ brought Gold full circle and back into the world of fashion design.

“I was in an exercise class in SoulCycle – and I conceived of the idea of having a brand of hand bags that are sold in components that the customer could build themselves. We would stock each component, and as they build it we sort of assemble it, and ship it to them.”

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The idea for goldno.8 was born. goldno.8 offers customized handbag – designed by the user through a selection of luxe materials, straps, snaps, pins, and key tags. Created for the busy woman on-the-go who needs a versatile bag that can switch looks from one appointment to the next event, goldno.8 offers women an effortless way to change styles seamlessly. More so, the reversibility factors of the bag’s material means that you’re really getting (at least) two entirely different looks for one price, in one bag.

“Its fun, its cool, it allows (women) to really express themselves,” Ariane explains. “(Many women) want to have a voice. They don’t want to be told how to dress or how to wear things or how to say things. They want to have a voice and be able to express themselves.”

Gold spent most of 2015 planning her idea, developing her concept, and figuring out the logistics around the manufacturing of her product.  

“I ended up finding a really amazing factory in the United States that I’m super happy to be working with. They’ve been incredible partners to me from day one.”

But it wasn’t until she launched her Kickstarter that fall that Gold got what she calls, a crash course in owning a business. 

“Learning the business, learning about the customer. Figuring out fulfillment. Figuring out logistics. Everything. Everything had to be crammed into a 30-day period,” she recalls of the experience. “It was intense. It was hard. It was amazing. One minute you’re up, one minute you’re down. One minute you’re celebrating hitting a goal. The next minute, you’re wondering how you’re going to get to the next.”   

The experience ended up being a huge success. Gold was able to get over 167 backers and surpassed her $25,000 goal.

“When I hit my goal, it was really incredible and quite the celebration,” she describes. “It was very intense but an amazing experience for me. I loved it. I highly recommend it to people who are not faint of heart. Who have balls of steal. Who can handle the torture of it and the sheer exhilaration of it.”

The success of the Kickstarter campaign also signaled that Gold’s instincts about the change in consumer purchasing within the fashion industry – from top down, prescriptive buying, to direct to consumer design, was spot on. Of course, it didn’t hurt when a few more major luxury brands quickly followed suit:  

“I came up with my idea and then I learned about Fendi Strap You. So I was happily surprised to see that they were also thinking the same way that I was.”

The pattern of major luxury fashion lines moving to customizable fashion marked another important transition in the world of high-end design: collaboration.

“We see a lot of collaboration,” Gold explains of the recent changes in the fashion space. “We see a lot of cross-brand promotion, which I love. I love seeing that. I look at goldno.8 as a collaboration with the customer herself, where we are collaborating with her. We want her input. We want her to wear it her way. How she wants, how she’s comfortable. How it expresses her vision for any given moment of the day.” 

Important to that, is ensuring goldno.8 maintains its position in the market as an aspirational, but not unobtainable brand.  

“I really wanted to create a product that people could really access. They didn’t have to spend 1,200 to 3,000 on a bag. They could come to us at gold no 8 and it could still be in the world of obtainable for them.”

If I didn’t make the conscious effort to focus on myself, I would’ve probably let myself get really scared.

It goes without saying that Gold has not only found her next step, she’s taken off sprinting.  In the past year, goldno.8 has appeared in Nylon, Cosmo, and Bustle, amongst other notable publications. goldno.8 launched a new popup store in downtown Manhattan, where you can walk in and personalize your bag with all the materials (literally) at your fingertips. Excitingly, goldno.8 has also collaborated with award winning journalist Denise Albert for the Pink Ribbon pin and snap, donating 100% of the profits to the Susan G Komen Foundation.

Gold’s rapid success is one she attributes to her mindset during that summer in 2015. 

“Without a doubt, if I didn’t take the time - if I didn’t consciously say, this is my time for myself. If I didn’t consciously say that. If I didn’t make the conscious effort to focus on myself, I would’ve probably let myself get really scared at the thought of the unknown,” she reveals. “I could’ve let myself go down a path that could’ve been self destructive.” 

But instead, by making a conscious decision to prioritize herself and allow herself the opportunity to grow outside of work, Ariane Gold unleashed a whole new side of her creativity that launched a company to allow other women to express theirs.  

“It was the perfect summer,” Gold reflects.

We’re guessing that for a lot of women and femmes out there, it’s going to be the perfect handbag too.