After her classroom experience in the MAFED program, Lili Radu founded two fashion brands; today her bags are distributed in the world’s top department and multibrand stores
“It changed my life.” Lili Radu doesn’t mean to exaggerate when she describes the experience that set her off on her entrepreneurial adventure nearly 10 years ago.
After earning a degree in Communications from the University of Vienna and later working in the world of marketing, Lili (a native of Frankfurt, Germany) decided to move to Milan. In 2010, she embarked on the Master Program in Fashion, Experience & Design Management (MAFED) at the SDA Bocconi School of Management.
And if you ask her what her most indelible memory of that experience is, she’ll answer with a smile: “The power and inspiration from the SDA Bocconi staff and the MAFED network!” “After initially studying in Vienna, I needed a more practical approach to life. During the year I spent in Milan I managed to give concrete form to an idea that I had in mind for some time: I realized that there were no fashionable bags on the market that were specially designed for laptops, and I wanted to create a product for this specific purpose. From dialoguing with my classmates and teachers, and continually interacting with international guests from the leading companies in the industry, I received a constant source of inspiration to realize my project, making this experience a unique one. That’s why I say MAFED changed my life.”
After graduating, Lili went back to Germany in 2011 and founded her namesake brand in Berlin. Her initial intuition was spot on – in fact in 2012 she was the first German designer to produce an exclusive collection for Apple, and a few months later also for Sony. Lili points out that from the very beginning she was clear about her business strategy based on quality products - but with accessible prices - a smart choice guaranteeing her a competitive advantage in this very competitive market. Together with her success, her product range and design evolved, never compromising on sustainability, a principle which has always been the centerpiece of Lili’s production.
In 2017 she decided to found VeeCollective with her husband, a second brand offering more carefree, minimal bags. “My husband and I decided to create a second brand born of the idea of lightness and functionality, which is what many customers were asking us for. Today VeeCollective is the lightest tote bag on the market, designed for travelling, sport, shopping, work and leisure time.” Thanks in part to the grand opening of her first mono brand store in Tokyo in 2019, VeeCollective sold more than 25 thousand pieces, generating 1.1 million euro in turnover that year, just two years after the brand’s foundation. Today VeeCollective counts more than 100 top accounts worldwide including Selfridges, Browns, Galeries Lafayette and Isetan.
In the past few years, Lili has been meeting the new demands of consumers by adapting marketing and communication strategies to social channels (Instagram in particular) and the web, which accounts for around 25% of all sales.
Today Lili’s two brands, with 10 employees, are distributed by the world’s top showrooms. Her goal for the future? Simple. Sell even more bags, constantly improving her product while increasingly focusing more on digital. Also she is currently looking for investors who will allow her to further expand to the US and Chinese markets.
If you ask her what the secret to her success is, and what advice she’d give to young entrepreneurs, she’ll give you a straight and simple answer: make sacrifices, give up free time, and work hard to create a product that you are 100% convinced of. At the same time test your product as soon as you can and listen to your customers. “There are no limits,” she says, smiling. “The most important thing is the your attitude when you do things, and the conviction and perseverance to do what it takes.”