Sustainable luxury brand Vertara’s sister-founders have built a custom bag empire—all while simultaneously elevating women across the globe.
The Asteria bag
Take a digital journey over to San Jose-based Vertara, and learn how to customize a sustainable luxury bag. First, choose a style (clutch, crossbody, wristlet); then select a purpose (casual, evening, carryall). Impressive 3D technology allows customers to see what the bag will look like when it arrives, plus play with accessories, textures and colors for each of the bag’s components—there are 768 unique combinations for the Asteria Pret, for example.
Each made-to-order bag is handcrafted by female artisan teams in India—an element of Silicon Valley-established and grown brand Vertara, whose site went live last spring on Mother’s Day. This date is especially important to the founders, sisters Namrita and Sweta Khandelwal, and integral to their mission.
The Urban Triad bag and laptop case
“We sisters grew up in the small yet progressive city of Jamshedpur [India],” says Namrita. “We lived in an oasis. India was in the throes of liberalization when we were young women. However, it was still characterized by patriarchal gender roles where women were homemakers first, and frequently last! Unlike the rest of the country, our township, school and parents wanted us to fight like girls—fierce and forthright. Our determination to contribute to a world without discrimination developed as we confronted the fundamental issues of equity, empowerment and sustainability.”
The founders’ shared desire to positively impact the lives of women, which bubbled up over many conversations that led to the development and patenting of the first prototypes, is aptly expressed in the brand’s name. It’s derived from the Latin roots “ver,” meaning “true,” and “tara,” referring to the astral goddess of infinite strength. Equally as powerful as the brand’s stellar name, equating to “true star,” is its philanthropic impact—10% of annual profits are committed to gender equality initiatives.
The Asteria bag
“Vertara follows a holistic 3E approach: ethical practices, environmentally conscious business model and empowering creators and customers,” says Namrita. “Empowering creators and customers is our corporate mission. Our decision to donate 10% of our profits to women-focused organizations is a way to augment our impact.” Last fall, Vertara pledged 10% of sales toward Living Beyond Breast Cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The sisters also prioritize forging relationships and partnerships with organizations such as Pratham that support education for underprivileged girls living in developing countries.
The Urban Triad: 3-handbags-in-1
Not only is Namrita and Sweta’s story a case study in Silicon Valley’s endless wealth of ingenuity and creativity, it’s also an example of what can happen when female entrepreneurs empower women, which just so happens to be Vertara’s mission. “We believe our brand is only as valuable as its convictions and that women have the power to uplift other women,” says Namrita. “We believe sustainable luxury is not an oxymoron. Luxury is not about plenty, but about few and timeless pieces that stand out. Vertara is a brand for women who need a one-of-a-kind handbag that holds not just their everyday essentials but also their beliefs, goals and aspirations.”
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND