New beginnings (part III)

{This is a continuation of a series of posts. To read from the beginning, click here}

The fourth new beginning: The launch of my business – Aide de Camp (November 2013)

Despite this being the fourth milestone in the past year, I’m really excited to be able to share my new business in stylish and practical camera handbags with you!

Stylish camera bags by Aide de Camp {Featuring the Rei camera bag}

Aide de Camp (ADC in short) specializes in bags that assist and empower modern women on a daily basis. The term ‘aide-de-camp’ is French for camp assistant, the foremost personal aide to a high-ranking official.

The name was suggested by my sister’s boyfriend and I fell in love with it as I envisioned our core business and design philosophies to deeply resonate with the duties of the aide-de-camp – to make life easier in general for users.

The first series is in camera handbags and I hope to expand it to other types of bags as soon as I can!

How it all began

As a hobbyist photographer, I enjoyed bringing my camera to fashion events, museum trips and fun days out with my friends. However, the lack of a suitable camera bag that suited my needs and my style made it very difficult.

I often had to stuff my camera in a bag and remind myself every five minutes not to knock it into anything. Either that or I would carry a sporty looking camera bag with a second bag for my personal items and try to hide the former. If I went on excursions, I’d have to unpack my fat wallet into the small pockets of the camera bag and forgo half my personal items just to fit everything within the bag.

I had friends who were wrapping their cameras in scarves or carrying them in paper bags – all because there was no ideal bag for female photographers.

And then one day, *ding!*. I had this idea of designing a bag that would house camera gear securely, together with enough room for personal items. At the time, I thought it was a brilliant, first-of-its-kind idea that I should perhaps file a patent for.That was until I did desktop research and realized there were a few other brands overseas that tried to achieve something similar.

At the time two years ago however, these other brands were just starting out, and none of them offered the exact solution I was looking for. (I’ve also been secretly happy and relieved that till this day, the other products on the market are still nowhere close to what I had designed – i.e. there was still space in the market for my products.)

Stylish camera bag - Leyden by Aide de Camp {Featuring the Leyden camera bag}

What I wanted in a camera bag that I couldn’t find elsewhere

A quick note: I don’t mean to be comparing or putting other brands down – I think all the players in the market have come up with something cool of their own. A lot of these details are subjective and I’ve decided to list down some features which were important to me, and why I designed our initial collection in the way it is today.

  •  A lightweight and water-resistant bag body – Many of the female camera bags on the market are made of full leather or faux leather. I’ve tried quite a few out and noticed that they tend to weigh a lot even before packing my camera gear and personal items in. As someone with a pretty small built, weight is quite a critical factor for me, especially when having to carry my things around the whole day on a trip.

As such, I designed ADC camera bags with a premium nylon body with minimal hardware to lighten the overall weight of the bag.

  • Enough room to pack in all my personal items – I noticed that a lot of camera bags still open up to a main body that is the camera box, with only small pockets on the outside to carry any personal items. I’m probably a stickler, but I never felt comfortable stuffing my wallet or personal items into the camera box compartment. Partly because of organization and dirt, and partly because I tend to scratch my gear really easily.

I ensured that all ADC bags came with a roomy compartment with additional signature pockets that help you pack more and stay organized. Wallet, makeup, notebooks, umbrella, a bottle of water and more can now fit in with your camera gear in one bag.

  • The ability to transform into a regular handbag – This was a feature I found myself longing to have when traveling. Many bags have the camera padding sewn into the bag lining itself. This meant that on a trip, if I wanted to leave my camera in the hotel room and carry a regular bag for shopping, I’d have to deal with the bulk of the camera padding in the bag, or bring a separate travel tote.

With this in mind, I designed a camera padding box that was fully removable from the handbag for regular use. What’s more, it comes in a sleeker material with a sheen, adjustable dividers and the ability to fold flat when not in use.

  • Comfortable straps – Carrying camera gear often means placing a lot of weight on our shoulders. Bags with piped handles and cross-body straps tended to cut into my shoulders.

Going through countless iterations of designs and samples, I’m pleased to introduce our signature shoulder handles that carry the slick look of a piped handle but folds out flat where it hits your shoulder. In addition, the flat portions are discreetly padded for additional comfort. All detachable cross-body straps feature a juicy neoprene in the centre for greater comfort too!

  • A classic style that would be suitable for most occasions and outfits – This is probably very subjective, but I found that most bag styles were a tad bit too casual for certain events I was used to attending. Or if I chose a certain color, I wouldn’t be able to match it with all my outfits.

The first series of camera handbags by ADC comes in full black and a variety of classic shapes. Termed as “the little black dress of camera bags”, I envisioned the collection to be very versatile and something that everyone can dress up or down with their outfits.

A quick peek at the five styles within our very first collection:

Stylish camera bags by Aide de Camp

{To view more information on our first collection at the ADC website, click here.}
{Prices are in Singapore dollars presently.}

The journey and challenges

For those of you who have read my ‘about’ page previously, for the longest time I had written that I was working on a new business and to stay tuned. I hate to admit it, but that snippet was there for close to two years.

It took close to two years to go through the various challenges of starting my own business. It was my own naivete when jumping into it, thinking it’d be easy since I had my own designs on hand. As I slowly learnt, many factors are hardly within your control and it takes much more than just ideas and designs to give birth to a new business.

While setting up the business, I learnt how to:

  • Communicate with countless manufacturers overseas on my designs (in Mandarin no less!)
  • Troubleshoot a lot of quality control issues ranging from material to hardware to sewing (this was a huge reason for the time delay as I was very picky about getting it done to satisfaction)
  • Deal with a partnership and settlement that went sour midway through the journey
  • Manage various suppliers to produce the camera handbags, gift boxes, packaging, mailing boxes and print collaterals
  • Import the items back to my base country (Singapore) and handle logistics, warehousing and packing
  • Handle accounting and business administration issues (not my favorite part, I confess!)

The list goes on but I’ll save you the boredom by listing some main points. Right now I’m still in the midst of learning how to best grow and market the business. I’ll probably be posting more tips once in a while in the ‘business’ tag section of my blog for those looking for advice on setting up a business with manufacturing done in China as it’s been seemingly a popular topic.

But in the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you could show some love to my new business and help spread the word. Or if you have other suggestions or colors or bags you’d want to see being produced, feel free to shout out and let me know! (Some customers have already started using our bags as a regular bag for work by removing the camera padding box, or turned it into a diaper bag using the camera box as compartments for bottles and all!)

In all, this rounds up my fourth new beginning for the year 2013. For the year 2014, my husband and I have agreed to ‘simplicity’ as our motto for the year so we can adapt to the various changes going on. This would be especially helpful once baby Isaac comes in three months time (of which I have not figured out how to juggle my need for some “maternity leave” to focus on the baby versus putting the business on hold for a few weeks. Any advice would be most helpful too!)

If you’ve read to the end, I’d just like to thank you for being so patient and for even being interested in these details in my life! We’ll be moving to our new home soon, so I hope to share more home decor and tips with you soon.

Love, Michele

[This is part of a series of posts on new beginnings in 2013. To read part I, click here. To read part II, click here]

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Comments

  1. Roberta says

    Great collection! Some days ago I’ve had a tour into your Aide de Camp site and I’ve pin 2 of your creations. I already know (through your blog) that you have a wonderful taste but seeing your creations simply confirm what I thought!
    What about your little Isaac? How is it going on? Hugs

    • says

      Hi Roberta, thank you so much for your support and kind words! Big hug :) Isaac is doing well so far, just growing a lot more again and kicking up a storm in the meantime. Hope you are doing well too? :)

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