Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004

High schoolers unveil handbag designs

By Erica Stein

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Lanaea Bailey, center, a student at the High School for Leadership and Public Service, with the handbags she designed. She and her classmates formed Eletto Designs, which is now marketing the accessories.

The Jane, the Lasso and the Fusion were just a few of the handbags on display yesterday as Eletto Designs staged their first showcase at Downtown’s High School for Leadership and Public Service. The showcase represents the culmination of a two-year pilot program in which 10 students from the school interacted with professionals from a variety of industries, had two-week internships, and then created their own company.

The program was developed and run by The New York Opportunity Network, a non-profit founded by Brian Weinstein and Jessica Switzer, whose goal is to expose public school students early to the adult business world. “There were a lot of people interested in doing the program,” said Pamela Carrington, 17, Eletto’s vice president of market research.

As sophomores, the students had a semester-long series of lectures given by professionals in fashion, law, entertainment and journalism. Then, each student completed an internship, overseen by a mentor, at a participating company. Carrington, who says she’s always been interested in advertising, worked with Focus Room, where she will work again this year after the end of school – this time for the whole summer.

This year the students at the Trinity Pl. school developed their own company. Eletto was born when Lanaea Bailey, 16, needed a purse. “I didn’t have a bag for school. So I made one, and then I took it to the group.”

Switzer and Weinstein decided that a design company would be easier than the other two possible companies for the students to run, and Bailey became vice president of product development. She worked with designer Amie Friedland for six months to learn about patterns, shapes and colors.

Friedland works for G-III Apparel, NYON’s largest corporate donor. “The kids are so great. They’re so much more confident and articulate than I was at that age,” said Friedland. G-III donated all of the material, as well as a sewing machine for Bailey, who created 15 different styles of bags, most of which come in several different colors. If the company makes money, the students will get the profit.

Eletto has a specific market in mind for its product. “We’re teenagers, so we know what youth want to wear. They’re made of jean, and they’re fun,” said Melissa Portalatin, 16, who did marketing research for Eletto. Portalatin sung the praises of the Lasso, an accessory bag with a detachable belt, which, along with the Jane, seem to be the most popular bags, according to designer Bailey.

Portalatin said the 10 students plan to keep the company going through their senior year and college, and that Switzer and Weinstein have talked to different businesses, including Ford Modeling, about displaying or selling the bags.

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