NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If selling luxury items is about making buyers feel like they're part of a glamorous, exclusive club, Joel Storella and Salvatore Vitiello just made that club more exclusive.
Storella and Vitiello are part of a breed of designers offering something many brands lost touch with in pursuit of worldwide sales and success: bespoke or custom items made in small studios in consultation with a client. When finished, the pieces do not come with a conspicuous designer label or look so well known the designer is recognizable immediately.
Buy a Coach bag and everyone knows it's Coach. The same holds true with Louis Vuitton bags and the ubiquitous LV logo or Tommy Hilfiger clothing or Lacoste.For many, the status-boosting label is part of the attraction. But not so for some who are gravitating toward a different form of luxury, which is where designers such as Storella and Vitiello come in. Storella, a Boston leather accessories designer, specializes in hand-stitched bags for men and women. You would never know a Storella bag if you saw one. And in many ways, that's the point. "I saw a need in the world for something that's unique," 35-year-old says Storella during a recent telephone interview. When Storella makes a bag for a client, he never repeats that creation. His process is more akin to commissioning a single painting from an artist. He meets with clients face to face, crafting pieces based on their ideas. "What I'm making ... is a single client's vision. I'm creating what only existed in their head," says Storella, whose grandfather was a salesman for Jantzen and whose parents owned a clothing manufacturing business. The reason Storella works this way dates back to his days as a sales associate at the Hermes store in Boston's Back Bay. Working at Hermes from 2004 to 2010, Storella developed a to-die-for client book. On good days he'd do upward of $240,000 in sales, not bad for a small-town New Hampshire boy so green when he entered the business he didn't even recognize Vuitton bags. Storella's bags range from around $10,000 for a backpack to more than $25,000. Still, at least for this small-town boy, it's not about the money. Storella believes a designer handbag is a work of art. He's not interested in mass producing, or having dozens of minions in his employ. "I talk to financial people and investors, and they say 'You have to have scalability, you can't just be you.' But the reality is, I don't see why not. I don't want to have anyone else work for me," Storella says. "I will just be like an artist who paints and when that artist passes away ... the people who had a chance to work with them got that chance and those who didn't, didn't. I think that adds to the intrinsic value of the client relationship. There's a story that's there, instead of just going to the store and buying something." Vitiello, a luxury women's clothing designer in a small 38th Street studio in New York City's fashion district, works with similar inspiration. He left Wall Street to pursue fashion after seeing an unmet need. website went live last month, Vitiello received nearly 20 inquiries, one or two celebrities among them. Major fashion publications have been in touch. Prices for items in his capsule collection range from $400 and $1,000. The cost of the bespoke clothing will about double that range, Vitiello says. And like Storella's approach, the M.Bottiglieri labeling is discreet. "Inside each piece there is an embroidered ladybug. It's located somewhere different on each style. It's not like a other brands that display their logos in your face," he says. Have Storella and Vitiello struck upon a growing trend? Perhaps. But both prefer to see what they offer as something more lasting, based on value. Vitiello recognizes that designer labels and big designer brands still appeal to many who want to make it clear that they've arrived -- he's just not among those, and neither are his clients. "As a man, I won't wear something that has a label on the outside of it. I will not wear a brand. I think it's tacky. Wear the quality and let the quality speak for itself," he says.