Many college students study abroad to immerse themselves in another culture—the food, the history, and of course the social life. But Laura Vogel used her time studying in Milan, Italy, to plant the seeds for her burgeoning Italian handbag company, Vogelle, which officially launched in February.

Growing up in the suburb of Highlands Ranch, Vogel was scouted at a young age by a modeling agent at a local Walgreens, and soon she was working in glamorous locations like Aspen, Los Angeles, and Mexico City. While modeling included working on fashion shoots, Vogel says she also had the opportunity to meet with designers and sit in on sales meetings, which lead her to discover that her true interest in fashion was on the business side. She attended the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business to study marketing and finance, and in 2017 studied abroad in Italy while researching the “Made In Italy” campaign as a marketing strategy. Little did she know the experience would change the course of her career. “We got to meet executives from companies like Giorgio Armani, Marni and Ferrari,” says Vogel, “and that really opened up the idea for me of creating an Italian-based business.”

Laura Vogel
Laura Vogel, courtesy of Vogel

In 2019, Vogel returned to Milan to study international business and finance at the Università Bocconi. While walking around the city or riding the subway, she noticed many Milanese ladies carried a shoulder bag—a small-scale purse that neatly fits all the essentials (phone, credit cards and a lipstick) while chicly tucked under one’s arm. The style is the latest 1990s fashion trend that designers have resurrected, and once she saw the silhouette being donned by American models Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, she knew it was a trend that would soon hit the U.S. But searching for an affordable version proved difficult—she says the options were limited to either Zara’s fast-fashion version or a luxury brand, like the one from Prada. “I’m more that mid-level customer, who wants quality and timeless style, but doesn’t want to spend $2,000 on a bag,” she says.

Vogelle Chain Shoulder Bag in Green, $295

So she decided to create her own line. Through her neighbors in Milan—a motorcycle repair shop—she eventually was connected to a leather manufacturer who has been in business for nearly 20 years and produces bags for industry luminaries like Valentino, Gucci, and Versace. After returning to the U.S., she worked on her bag designs for four weeks during the summer of 2019, and then worked with her manufacturer to perfect her prototypes for three months. By October 2019, Vogel was ready to launch her brand.

Vogelle—a play on her full name; it’s a combination of Vogel and her initials L and E, for Laura Elizabeth—includes a core collection of two handbag styles: One with a leather shoulder strap ($235) and the other with a substantial chain strap ($295), as well as a credit cardholder ($72). The streamlined, elegant pieces come in neutral hues of white, camel, and black.

Vogelle Black Collection

Vogelle has already proved to be a hit with Denver fashionistas, as the bags have been briskly selling through the fall. Word has gotten out about the brand through a combination of trunk shows at local high-end boutique A.line, as we all as social media influencers and models via Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Which is good news, as like so many young designers around the world, Vogel’s line is self-funded through a combination of working at Nordstrom and her modeling jobs.

Vogelle’s next collection will launch in February 2021, coinciding with the brand’s one-year anniversary, and will feature a convertible bag that can be changed from a shoulder style into a crossbody. This gradual release of new styles means she’s growing her brand slowly, but that’s OK with Vogel as long as she can maintain her priorities: “Good quality bags at a lower price point. That’s the space I’m trying to fill,” she says.

To shop: All of Vogelle’s bags and cardholders are available online. Cardholders are $72 and bags start at $235. Bonus: Order a Vogelle bag and cardholder in December and receive a 15 percent discount at checkout;