Andrew Brooks is the CEO of Vianel, a brand he launched as a way to create the perfect cardholder, something he felt was never fully mastered. Prior to Vianel, when he looked for replacements, all cardholders he found were the same bulky shape in the same tired colors. At the core of Vianel’s inception was a minimal and simplified card holder; one to fit slimly into any pant or breast pocket, or tucked neatly into a woman’s clutch or purse. Andrew and his designer spent 2012 in development, touring the finest tanneries in the world and superior Italian factories in order to create the perfect cardholder. Here, he takes us through his essential sartorial staple.
Life+Times: Your history is in commodities trading yet you’ve always had a passion for luxury brands. How did you decide to form Vianel?
Andrew Brooks: I’ve been carrying a credit card holder since I can remember. Before Vianel, when I looked for replacements, the majority of card holders I found had a bulky shape that was not a flattering fit inside a pant pocket. My dream was to build a luxury product with a minimal and simplified design. It is not necessary to innovate a staple, but to create a bold moment with the right fit for comfort to use in both our daily life and for special occasions.
L+T: I’ve read that you had always wanted to own a brand that people could both relate to and enjoy. Since the company’s inception, do you still feel that the statement rings true?
AB: 100 percent. We see it every day on social media. There is nothing more satisfying than watching people share pictures of their custom card holders. Since day one our customers have been amazing advocates for the brand and it has been a rewarding journey so far. I cannot wait for them to see as we build out our collections into larger leather goods that hold true to the Vianel design aesthetic.
L+T: Why did you decide the launch with this specific product?
AB: The card holder is a common article produced at most design houses but, in my opinion, there are generally too many bells and whistles attached. Starting with a minimal shape was key to launch the brand, and what follows are three brand rules Vianel lives by: craftsmanship, color and function – delivering a product that we can stand behind proudly.
L+T: You spent 2012 in development alongside your designer. What was this process like?
AB: We spent most of the time sourcing. It was important for us to use elite tanneries and factories. We knew that entering the luxury leather goods category, which is primarily dominated by the biggest names in fashion, we needed to showcase the best of the best. I am not complaining about the trips to Florence, but between us we kissed a lot of frogs before finding the perfect tanneries.
L+T: Tell me a little bit about where the name Vianel comes fro?
AB: Its an acronym for me and my siblings in age order: VIctoria ANdrew ELizabeth
L+T: The categories have expanded since you launched. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
AB: We launched with three sizes of card holders in a variety of colors and pop edge stains. Vianel is a New York brand, and as we build out our luxury leather assortment, keeping to our minimal design, we will introduce larger fine leather goods and new exotic leathers in 2014. Since our Fall ’13 collection, we have introduced a folding card holder collection, a zipper collection, a pouch and more on the way.
L+T: The Vianel design philosophy is simple – create unique, modern, and functional accessories that reflect the essence of downtown luxury. Who, in your mind, epitomizes Vianel?
AB: I don’t think Vianel epitomizes one specific person, but I would like to think Vianel fits a full genre. The Vianel customer likes clean lines, maintains a simple lifestyle and exists without clutter. They are well traveled, enjoys a good meal and chooses to carry only what is needed for the day. Basically, me.