With Her Latest Fashion Foray, Designer Lauren Bruksch Finds a Fulfilling Niche
Having a ball.
As the lines between fashion and sports continue to blur, Lauren Bruksch spotted an opportunity to bring more style into the tennis world. As tenacious as she is stylish, Lauren is a lionhearted entrepreneur who has transformed her business battle scars into a versatile line of luxury tennis bags called Fenix Sportier—now proudly on display with the U.S. National Team at the Fed Cup of tennis.
Her journey to get there was a baptism of fire, as the name Fenix suggests. After attending Beverly Hills High School, Lauren graduated early from USC, excelling at marketing and PR and earning her degree in journalism and communications. Always on the fast track to success, she quickly became head of global marketing for Mattel’s beloved Barbie brand. There she collaborated with many fashion houses and was even responsible for Barbie’s first Facebook and Twitter accounts. She also curated a Bryant Park runway show where 50 American designers created individual looks for Barbie’s closet.
On a new path into the fashion world, Lauren left Mattel to reinvent a vintage shoe brand called Palter DeLiso. The company has a stellar fashion history, having invented the first peep-toe slingback and being the first to use colored leather and silk in their designs. She and her partner brought the brand back to life—envisioned through a modern lens—but learned very quickly that making shoes posed many new challenges. Fit issues, many expenses and other obstacles ultimately forced a stop to production, and Lauren was tasked with dismantling the company she had worked so hard to build. Ever positive, though, she looks back at that time as an amazing learning experience. She would bring all that hard-earned business know-how into her next venture.
Lauren picked up tennis as an escape from all the stress, and the courts soon became her happy place. Even though tennis was a moment to relax and unwind from the fashion world, as a true fashionista she could not switch off her discerning eye … she simply hated all the tennis bags she was seeing. “They were either too sporty, too utilitarian or too preppy,” she says.
Then a light bulb went off: She had all the relationships and experience necessary to make one herself. She was done dealing with size and fit issues, so making bags seemed to be the ideal way to both solve her problem and fulfill a niche market. Fenix Sportier was born.
Lauren wanted to create a different aesthetic for tennis—something chunkier, edgier and sexier than what she was seeing at the tennis club. She went to work sourcing the leather and researching the best piping, hardware and stitching. She describes her aesthetic as “if Balenciaga and Tom Ford had a tennis baby.”
She sewed her first samples in her own office from PVC and played with different designs before sending them off to get them made. It took her a while to find the right person and factory in Los Angeles to put it all together, but she feels fortunate to have found Juan Arenas—an impeccable tailor who had worked for luxury brands like Hermès and had overseen production for Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga.
Simple and streamlined at first, she sampled everything in black. Later she began using white and playing with neon leather, which she ordered from one of her previous Italian conciatores (tanners). She also designed a very cool clear bag using perforated PVC that became a hot seller for sporting events or as a beach bag or an everyday tote.
Another of her most popular bags is The Major, a huge tote designed to also hold a tennis racket. It became a top seller because so many of her clients were using it as a weekend bag. And since quality is central to everything Lauren does, she tested her white leather bag for an entire year before she put it into production.
Lauren laughs, “It was on the floor of Wrigley Field with beers and hotdogs. It was on numerous airplane bins and conveyor belts, at the beach and at the pool.” It’s no surprise Lauren built her business with the same care she puts into every product.