Manhattan Portage (MP) bags — one of the world’s most popular fashion accessories — are 100 percent made in Taiwan, according to MP CEO Lin Su-hwei (林淑惠), who herself is from Taiwan.
Lin has been selected by the Crain’s New York Business journal as one of its top entrepreneurs of the year, a title given to honor business leaders’ spirit of never stopping “innovating and growing, even when facing an unpredictable economy or a challenge as tough as Hurricane Sandy.”
Her success is turning the Manhattan messenger bags into a global hit. Asked how, Lin said she believes it is her insistence on staying in style and using high-quality materials.
“Manhattan Portage is iconic — they were the first real brand to make a messenger bag into something that was contemporary, sleek and functional,” said Emily Blumenthal, founder of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards.
One key to the company’s expansion came from Lin’s decision as CEO to move beyond the messenger bag while staying true to the brand’s roots, Crain’s said.
Last year, a client took a 30-year-old MP backpack to the company for repair, Lin said. This shows that their bags “are so durable that are hardly worn out after 30 years of use,” she said.
To maintain such high quality, Lin, who moved to New York from Taiwan in 1991, went back to her homeland where she located reliable factories.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, she started to weigh the feasibility of relocating MP factories from the US to Asia, Lin said.
At the start, she worked with manufacturers in the Philippines, Vietnam and China, but because they upheld different standards, she frequently had to travel between the US and Asia to check on the quality of every shipment, she said.
Eventually, she continued, “I got sickened.”
As a result, she decided in 2009 to close the factories in the Philippines and China and relocate production to Changhua County.
Taiwan makes top-quality products, according to Lin.
“Sometimes our factories demand a higher quality than even I ask for,” Lin said.