As a woman, as a leader, as a professional we strive on subjective experiences by pushing onto new boundaries, leveraging our skills and strengths to help others while embracing our femininity. Along the way, we learn to be versatile, organized and pragmatic yet equally with style. We recognize that to be in control; we need unique accessories that support our performance. Other than a smartphone, handbags are one of the essential accessories to flair our convictions, our way of life and our composure.
Harlen collections, designed out of a need for excellence by the graduate of Stanford University (BA, MA), Berkeley Law (JD), and the Yale University School of Medicine (MD), Julie Cantor, embodies sophistication, independence, and stature. Effortlessly stylish, the collection supports the tale of emancipated woman carrying a load in the twists and turns of her career labyrinth. Cleverly designed, Harlen bags are a perfected evolution rooted in practical and timeless quality, intended to gratify the hard work of powerful women.
An investment in an amalgamation of simplicity, elegance, tasteful and contemporary style made by the Italian master artisans perfects our desire to do good. For every Harlen you own, the company supports one student in Room to Read’s Girls Education program for one year. A feel-good luxury item that unveils our unassuming libertarian ethos and complies with our standards of quality.
Jupilings: How do you describe yourself-
JC: A modern minimalist. An optimist. Creative. Tenacious. Organized. Usually wearing black. An avid fan of art, design, and nearly all things made in Italy. Advocate for science, integrity, and human rights. Engaged in the world. Always striving.
Jupilings: What set you off on your entrepreneurial venture-
JC: I was working at an elite law firm in downtown Los Angeles, and I needed a way to carry my career essentials from home to work, from a meeting to mediation, from day to evening. The options I found missed the mark. One wheeled bag was too small, and its handle broke. A leather tote sagged at the bottom from the weight of my things. The look was always off, and I could never find my keys. So I created a few prototypes that reflected my vision of what this perfect work bag would be. When friends, colleagues, and even strangers were enthusiastic about the pieces and the brand vision, I decided to create a line of “modern career pieces”—designed for the modern professional woman who values quality, needs an accessory with form and function, and wants to move opportunity forward for girls worldwide. She is a person leading a life of significance with style.
Jupilings: What is the story of your brand name “Harlen”-
JC: The brand is named after my grandparents, Harriet and Lenny. (I adored them.) Our brand values of juxtaposing style, savvy, and significance with equality, empowerment, and education can be traced to them. My grandmother had great personal style—the kind you either have or you don’t. She had a career. And she had an endless collection of handbags and shoes. I can remember clomping around my grandparents’ house as a three-year-old in her heels with one of her handbags draped over my arm. Very fancy preschooler.
My grandfather was an advocate for girls. When his two daughters were young, he saw endless organized sports options for boys, but nothing for the girls. So he started the first girls’ sports league in their town (Levittown, New York). This was the mid-1950s, long before Title IX, so culturally and socially, he was really swimming upstream. But he made it happen, and my mom, my aunt, and their friends played softball and basketball in that league. He also was a firm believer in the power of education and the doors that academic excellence can open.
Their house was designed with lots of blacks and whites and a hint of glamour, which inspired our aesthetic. Their vintage black, grey, and white couches are in our showroom.
Jupilings: What are the principles in lifestyle that you want to manifest in your brand Harlen-
JC: Modern. Intelligent. Design. Our client needs utility and style, and she understands the quality of pieces made in Italy by second- and third-generation artisans. She moves the world forward on her terms. She needs a piece that works in a variety of work environments, and that moves seamlessly from day to night. She is inspired by the past as well as the possibilities for the future. She is a mentor and a leader with ambition. And she is unapologetic about it.
Jupilings: What does refined and simple design mean to you-
JC: Symmetry and clean lines. Extraordinary materials. The finest craftsmanship. Making a statement through style.
Jupilings: What does intelligent and elegant design mean to you-
JC: We thought endlessly about intelligent design and the needs of women as they move through their day and their careers. An example: Every Harlen closes with a zipper or magnets and a carabiner. Because things fall out. Because we deserve privacy. Because security demands a closure.
We use—exclusively—Raccagni’s Super-R zips. (In Italy, zippers are “zips.”) These are, without question, the world’s finest. I’ve visited the Bergamo facilities, and they hum with a unique blend of technology, creativity, and perfection. And the Raccagani family lives and breathes zips. They constantly innovate. You’d think that after more than 45 years of creating zips that are as exquisite as they are functional that they’d be done. Not yet.
That kind of intelligent design permeates every aspect of a Harlen. It’s why we plate our hardware in palladium—it’s stunning, and it is strong. These are, after all, work bags. So they are designed to withstand the rigors of daily use and still look as good on day 1,000 as they did on day 1. We don’t use the kind of leathers that are designed to patina, scratch, and age. Ours are chosen for beauty and durability. I like a clean look.
And all of our materials and ateliers follow best environmental practices. Again, intelligence meeting design to protect our collective future.
Jupilings: What is the favourite aspect of your business (Harlen)-
JC: Without question, I love seeing how thrilled our clients are to own our pieces. It’s so gratifying—especially after a decade of work to bring Harlen and its collection to them. I also love working with our amazing ateliers in Italy. They are the absolute best in the world at their craft. It’s like working with the Steven Spielberg of bags, hardware, zippers, plating, lining, leather, and so on. We are incredibly fortunate to have found these amazing families who also create for the world’s most recognizable and enduring brands.
Jupilings: What is the hardest part of your business (Harlen)-
JC: I think the greatest challenge of any business these days is to have your message rise above the noise. We are all inundated with information, between your Twitter feed and breaking news and work emails, which can be more like instant messaging than a letter since people expect an instant response. It’s overwhelming. And our clients are not 9-5, Monday through Friday people. They are working. So the challenge is to engage these incredible people in a meaningful way in a world of constant messaging.
Jupilings: Please tell us about the philanthropic aspect of Harlen-
JC: When a client owns a Harlen, we provide the financial support for one student to participate in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program for one full year. That contribution provides girls with the tools they need to thrive and succeed: mentoring and life skills education, tuition and fees, books and uniforms, and additional resources, like a bike, if needed, to get to school. It is a significant contribution with a significant impact.
We partnered with Room to Read because it is the leading non-profit for literacy and girls’ education, because it employs evidence-based interventions and continues to collect data on and evaluate its work, and because it works hand-in-hand with communities. It doesn’t just drop off books and leave. Quite the opposite. It is a privilege to work with this organization. Accolades and recognition from groups like Charity Navigator reinforce its quality.
We support girls’ education because, as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof has said, it may not be a silver bullet for fixing the world’s ills, but it’s the closest thing we have to it. Widely considered to be the world’s best investment, girls’ education and empowerment can end illiteracy, improve health, stabilize societies, curb extremism, boost economies, combat child marriage, foster independence, and advance equality. Its impact is breathtaking. It reverberates across societies and throughout generations. And it alters the trajectory of a life.
And our clients are unbelievably well-educated. So we move forward the transformative power of education that they’ve experienced—and pay tribute to the countless girls who simply want a chance to learn.
We support other efforts to further education, empowerment, and equality. For example, we have supported the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the Japanese American Bar Association’s Educational Foundation. And I am always interested in speaking with people and organizations whose values align with our own to pursue partnerships or support them in unique and creative ways.
Jupilings: What is the commonality between a social change agent as a law professor and a fashion accessory designer who is a culture-based creative –
JC: My work as a litigator and law professor led directly to Harlen. And both of my roles—professor and entrepreneur—are about curating choices. In my reproductive rights course, for example, I discuss women’s rights during pregnancy and how to advocate for clients—and yourself—within a system that does not always follow the best scientific evidence. It’s about finding solutions within systems. And that’s very Harlen. I cultivated relationships with the very finest creators in Italy so women could have the best option for their daily career essentials that strives to be as extraordinary as they are.
Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given-
JC: Keep going.
Jupilings: As a Lecturer in Law, a litigator and female entrepreneur, can you please share five tips to tap into one’s potential to achieve one’s career or entrepreneurial aspirations-
- Details matter. Pay attention to them.
- Be prepared. Unless you’re doing improv, winging it isn’t inspiring.
- Exceed expectations. Surprise clients and colleagues with excellence, not just adequacy.
- Develop good judgment and work with people who have it.
- Be ethical. And don’t work with people who aren’t.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-
JC: Develop and follow a style guide. Consistency is crucial when sharing your vision and voice.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
JC: Stay focused on the big picture, reset your goals, and be grateful. Then keep moving. In. Around. Over. Through. Whatever. Keep moving.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
JC: Fearless women. And women who face the fear and do it anyway.
Jupilings: What does it mean to be a woman today-
JC: To have more opportunity than ever in human history and still confront a playing field that is far from level.
Jupilings: What is the issue you want media to talk about most-
JC: As a reader and viewer, I would love information at the end of a story or on a website with non-partisan calls to action, so we feel empowered, not just informed, and have the opportunity to take steps to use the information for good.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
JC: Forward. It’s also my license plate.