While most college students spent free time finding the next party, visionary fashionista Cassandra Connors spent hers building a successful eBay business brokering the best bags she could get into her lovely hands for inspection. Flash forward a few years from a dorm room development to what is now Bella Bag, the multi-million dollar retailer of luxury pre-owned and vintage designer handbags. That success reflects the style and savvy of one driven lady with an eagle eye for detail!
At what point in your life did you decide to become a bag lady?
I’ve always been one! I wish I could say that there was some momentous turn of events but … it’s genetic. My mother, like her mother, has incredible taste in accessories. My grandmother, Nana, had wonderful clothing and bags — Chanel, Louis Vuitton, all of it. Although my mother’s particular penchant was for shoes, I can remember being young and always carrying a little purse just like her, and then at around 16, buying my first designer bag, a Furla, that she purchased for me. I’ll never forget that bag … a supple, black leather, flap-top shoulder bag with suede interior. Amazing. Most important was that my mother and I were together.
How’d your parents feel about your career move?
Interesting. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily excitement at first — especially when I sold the car they’d bought me, a really nice $25,000 car, to fund my first round of inventory. My father didn’t speak to me for awhile. He’s an incredibly smart business man with a handful of graduate degrees in finance and a partially-finished doctorate who’d made wonderfully-calculated decisions in a corporate arena for most of his life. Although what I was doing made sense to me, at first, it didn’t make sense to many others. Now, he couldn’t be any more supportive and proud, and his advice and guidance along the way is really one of the major forces that has gotten me this far. I call him at least once a week to weigh and measure decisions.
Where’d you get your business savvy and all that moxie? Who are your mentors?
I’m literally laughing out loud! Moxie. Funny. Yes, I do have a brash side I suppose … better to be bold than to fade. As far as business goes, I try to soak in everything that people tell me, every single day of my life. I follow my gut, and yes, I have incredible mentors including my father, who was in banking for 25+ years, and then moved on to hold CEO positions in non-profit, finance and tech companies. In fashion, I feel so grateful to have Susan Nethero, CEO Emeritus of Intimacy, as a mentor and also Susan Falk, former CEO of both Bendels & Betsey Johnson, coach me through one day at time.
Give us your definition of the word “luxury”.
To me, luxury is something or somewhere, or even someone, that makes you feel special, beautiful, extraordinary. I don’t put a price tag on luxury. Recently, I gave someone a gift; it was around $90. It was luxury to them, not because of the price tag, but because of the thought behind the gift. And then, we have customers who purchase bags for thousands of dollars and that is luxury to them. I would actually venture to say that it’s luxury not because of the price tag, but because of the feeling it creates for them.
Your baby Leah is such a doll! Inquiring minds wanna know: what kind of diaper bag have you been lugging around?
Two Answers: (1) I chose a Goyard St. Louis GM in Black. (2) I carried it once and then put it in the trunk. I’m not your typical mom. I rarely stray from a Chanel Jumbo Flap and stilettos (even when I was 9 months pregnant).
Do you have a bucket list piece that you’d love to own just once? Even if we are prying it from your cold, dead hands?
Oh God, yes. It was the clutch I carried at my wedding — a Marchesa Crystal Clutch with a rock closure, I’ll never let it go! I also have an incredible crocodile-embossed planner from Smythson that is gorgeous; it’s a forever piece as well!
On your frequent travels, what’s in your carry-on bag?
I’m a pretty light traveler, except always bringing many bags that I don’t like to check. I usually carry a Chanel Flap bag, that has the essential inside, like my cell, wallet, charger, some cosmetics, that stuff. Then I’ll carry another tote like a Goyard or something, and in there is a MacBook Air, iPad, more chargers, a pair of shoes and then about 4 handbags (a crossbody, another Chanel flap, a Bottega clutch, another folded tote). It’s actually kind of crazy and the TSA people are always laughing, like,“lady, why do you have some bags in your bag?”
So exciting to hear how a native New Yorker has fallen in love with Atlanta. Where can we find you hanging around town, shopping and dining?
Atlanta has such an amazing food scene. Most people outside of Atlanta have no clue, right?! I love Bocado and Ecco, two of my favorites. I also live right near the St. Regis, so I enjoy just grabbing breakfast or drinks with friends there. I basically stop into Whole Foods for something everyday of my life in Buckhead, and Octane in West Midtown is the best for a soy latte!
What’s your guilty pleasure song? You know the one … singing in the shower, belting it out over the headphones, rocking out alone in the car?
Pat Benatar, “Hit Me with your Best Shot”. No doubt. I’m actually going to turn it on right now. Yes!
Tell us something people might be surprised to know about you.
I raced in downhill skiing, skiing GS, Slalom and Super G from 14-18. I grew up in the UK, as my father was working in international banking, and he taught me to ski at age 3 in the Alps. My husband thought I was joking the first time I told him that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me on skis. I wasn’t joking.
How do you relax and decompress from the frenzy?
What I consider a true luxury is downtime I have with my two Goldendoodles at the end of the day. I’m quite the homebody and I love to curl up in my bed with both of them nestled around me, a glass of wine and watch reruns of Law & Order. It’s my me time!
Other than faith, family and friends, name three things without which you just couldn’t live.
- My two mini Goldendoodles, Gigi & Dexter
Cassandra, we had the best time lingering in Bella Bag with you! We so appreciate you letting us “play in your closet.”
Many thanks to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for her glamorous photos.