October 22, 2018

GSM London business student bags gap in fashion market

Student sitting down wearing a crop bag Model wearing Denny Anthony’s TullsaLondon man bag

Fed up with carrying cumbersome and unfashionable bags, south-east Londoner Denny Anthony developed a prototype pouch bag that has been turning heads since it was first publicly showcased at the end of 2015. He has now secured contracts to distribute the bags to retail outlets in London and Cyprus and is developing a waterproof addition and one that women can wear.

Inspiration for his bag concept came during a birthday trip to Ibiza, Spain in August 2015 where Denny’s shoulder strap ‘man’ bag did not integrate well with what he was wearing on a night out.

“I had always been conscious of what my mother dressed me in as a child and liked nice clothes and being coordinated. Although the bag was practical, it did not look visually appealing to me and seemed to dampen down the whole aesthetics of what I was wearing,” the 34-year-old said.

Driven to find something with a better fit, Denny went to work as soon as he returned from his holiday. He enlisted the help of a local artist, fashion designer and manufacturer to develop a prototype.

Innovative design

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Denny’s bags come in black and brown leather and hang on one shoulder rather like slipping your arm through a sleeveless jacket. The pouch is secured into place with a clip that goes across the chest, which means the days of messing about with handles are over. The pouch has been designed to hold multiple bank and oyster cards as well as having space for keys and money.

The initial idea was only meant for Denny’s personal use but he was soon persuaded to develop the idea into a business after receiving strong interest from the public.

“On more than one occasion I would have people ask me where I got the bag from and many did not believe that I invented it,” said Denny. “For people to go out of their way to ask me about the bag let me know that I was on to something. That is when things started to become more serious.”

Brand name

Once the prototype was developed, the brand name ‘Tullsa London’ followed. There is an obvious parallel with Tulsa in Oklahoma, US, which flourished during the early 1910s and was known as ‘the Black Wall Street’ because it was home to several prominent black businessmen. But Denny’s version has an extra ‘l’ and the name came to him in a dream, he said.

“I did not want to force the brand name and knew that eventually it would come to me,” said Denny. “I am into signs and symbols and one day heard and saw Tullsa in my dream. The word was against a black background with words such as ambition and motivation disappearing and popping in a kind of vortex.”

During the development of Tullsa London, Denny was enrolled at GSM London – a higher education institution specialising in business management in Greenwich in February 2014. He is a second-year BSc (Hons) Business Management student and was able to use elements from his studies to build on his business.

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“There are definitely parallels with my degree course that have helped me move my project forward, especially now in this semester,” said Denny. “I am doing marketing and placement as part of my course and this is helping me gain more awareness of how I can use certain marketing tools.

“In the early stages of my course, I covered SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Although I was aware of these concepts, having the technical understanding was really helpful. It allowed me to articulate and illustrate where I am going wrong, where my weaknesses and opportunities were and find strategies to address them.”

Academic skills

He has also gained some entrepreneurial insight from GSM London’s Formation Zone – an award-winning facility that offers guidance, access to contacts and a collaborative environment for students with a business idea or an existing enterprise.

“I happened to tell Carol Daly, who is the Student Advisory Co-ordinator at GSM London,  about my idea. Carol has known me since I was little when my dad worked for GSM London,” said Denny. “She advised me to go and speak to Paul Moran, who heads up the Formation Zone, to see what opportunities the college could potentially offer. Paul was able to signpost me to where I could get a list of free advice; access external bodies and guidance from lawyers, for example, on intellectual copyright.”

Denny showcased his pouches formally for the first time at GSM London’s fresher’s week induction day at the beginning of February and was surprised at the feedback he got from students and staff.

“At one point, there was a throng of people around my table and I gathered contacts from 39 who were interested in buying the bag,” said Denny.

Although, Tullsa London is a one-man operation for now, Denny is confident the business model will grow, enabling him to increase production in the south London area. His next task is to develop a waterproof version for a retailer in Cyprus that wants 50 units of his bags; and focus on a new range of female pouches. Denny’s Tullsa London pouches go on sale officially in the spring. To learn more about Denny’s product, follow him on Instagram at tullsalondon

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