If you’re an avid concertgoer or sports fan, you probably know all about the clear bag policies most venues put in place a few years back. As a dedicated fan, the new policies hit Elise Smith hard. Like many others, she wanted to carry essential items into events, but still keep her sense of style.
In 2017, Smith knew that something had to be done. Clear bags were becoming an essential item not just for events, but in the workplace and at school. That’s when she decided to start the Geaux Clear Collection, a Baton Rouge-based line of chic clear purses in compliance with bag policies at stadiums and venues in Louisiana.
Read on as Smith shares the history and her vision behind the Geaux Clear Collection:
1. What is a typical day like for you and your team?
I don’t have a typical day. Week to week, we look at what’s on the schedule. I look at what’s coming up as far as concerts and events and pop-ups, and kind of gauge schedules from there. That puts me where I’m going to be, whether in the office, in front of customers, at an event somewhere, or even out of town showing products to someone.
But obviously the holiday season, concert season and sports season are the busiest for us. We have to be super flexible, doing a lot of things and wearing lots of hats. I am a full-time marketing consultant working remotely, so I’m able to balance that with this.
2. What’s your professional background? How did you get into the retail field?
I have a degree in mass communication, with a focus in public relations and a minor in marketing. I started off in marketing straight out of college and loved it. Then I worked in the event coordinating realm, which I loved. I loved planning things and bringing people together. And then from there, I got married.
I started working full time in marketing for a retail business at the cusp of when social media really launched. Instagram had just opened up, and I helped the retailer really broaden its brand. Then, I had my children. I realized at that point that I wanted to go out and try to do something on my own. I started consulting for people that had small local businesses in Baton Rouge. All of those things really have formed this great little niche of background for me that brought me to where I am with the Geaux Clear Collection.
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3. What was your reason for starting Geaux Clear? When did it open, and how has it grown or changed since then?
Geaux Clear is five years old, approximately. I opened it because there was a need once all those clear-bag policies started rolling out, and there weren’t many universal, quality pieces around. I talked to my husband about the idea. “That’s a great idea,” he said, “but how are you going to do it?”
It was a lot of trial and error. The Geaux Clear Collection was brought about because I wanted women to be able to attend all these events and feel good about themselves without having to sacrifice their necessities, whether for their children, their well-being, or just their beauty products. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice at all. We should be able to go and have a full day and be able to carry what we need.
4. When people go on your website, what’s the first thing they see?
The first thing I want them to see is vibrance. I want them to see life. What we love about going to these events where we have to carry clear compliant bags is what we feel. We feel the music, we feel joy, we feel sportsmanship, we feel the love of the game—all those things. I also work with a great photographer who really gets that that’s the pulse of what I want to be shown.
5. What sets your bags apart from others?
In the clear bag realm, there are a lot out there. Everybody has to have one, whether you’re going to a theater show or a game. But what sets the Geaux Clear Collection apart is quality. Detail-wise, the production and the materials that we use are elevated compared to a lot of the things that are on the market. We’ve been doing it for several years now, so we know what works and what doesn’t work.
We want people to feel like they’re not just wearing a grocery bag. I want you to be able to show your style. I wanted to have stuff for every style of person, too. And I think the last thing that sets us apart is what’s really behind the brand: a young mom, wife, entrepreneur—somebody who just wanted to create something that not only serves the community but also allows people to go and enjoy all of these events, despite the restrictions.
6. What is one thing you think customers should know about your collection that they probably aren’t aware of?
I’m the oldest of four daughters, and my parents are one of nine and one of ten. So we come from a really, really big family. Because of that, I have a lot of inspirational females in my life that have always supported me. I call them my cheerleaders. We have a lot of cheerleaders.
In the first year, I decided that these bags were going to be named after people that were little inspirations to me. So it’s not just me; everything is rooted back in family.
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7. How do you keep your store’s inventory fresh and up to date?
We just plan ahead. Obviously, there are slower and busier times. We had some challenges. Unfortunately with COVID, we had almost two years of thinking, What do we do? There’s nothing to go to. We tried to make smart decisions and just sit tight. From there, we’ve really believed the sky’s the limit. I know what people love, and I try to take a note from one of my marketing professors: “Do one thing and do it well.” If we have styles that do well, why are we going to reinvent the wheel? Let’s make them again, and do them better. Then, we just create things that we feel will complement or elevate them. During the Mardi Gras season, we’ll bring in something fun and inspirational with a little different flair from our norm. But typically, we just stick with what’s doing really well, just building on it and making it even better every year.
8. Can you give us a hint about what shoppers will see next season?
We started playing around with our branding and our sayings. We use a lot of motivational phrases because during the pandemic, there was a lot of sadness. From that, we created stickers, T-shirts, etc. They did really great, surprisingly. That’s really not our realm, but I’d love to play with more fun concepts like that and collaborate with other local or Louisiana-based brands. Other than that, I can’t give away a lot of things because I feel like it would be showing my hand. But the clear accessory industry is growing so much—clear is not only on trend, but also a must. You’re going to see it in every realm, not just in the arena, concert and sports realms. I have lots of fun new things planned.
9. What are some of your favorite items in your store right now?
For a long time, we had a larger style bag which is geared more toward moms or people who carry a lot more things. That was called The Rachael. Then we had a lot more minimal-size bags, which tended to be more popular. I needed an in-between style.
The newest design this year is called The Margaux. I designed it in honor of my cousin. It’s more of a stylized messenger bag. It’s got the thicker strap, plus it’s soft (not metal, and not leather), and it’s also interchangeable. It’s a messenger style, so it sits lower on your hip area. It’s open and easily accessible. It’s great for a mom, a girl on the go, or someone that may be more casually chic, which is really the trend that we see so much of right now. It’s for that person who needs that as an everyday medium-size, comfortable, chic, really accessible, versatile piece.
10. What are a few must-have Geaux Clear items for the fall and winter?
A must-have have would be an updated Geaux Clear Collection bag. It would be a great gift item for yourself, your mother or your mother-in-law. A lot of people, for a long time, thought I don’t need one, or I’ll just put my phone in my back pocket. But I think it’s a great investment piece for yourself. Whether you’re traveling or going to an event downtown or in New Orleans, all of our bags are compliant.Plus, a lot of them have little privacy pouches inside where you can still keep things private. And those are within the security and compliance regulations as well. I just think if you’re going to have anything, you have to have at least one style. From there, you can just grow your collection.
Bonus: What are some of your best-selling products?
Currently, I would say our best-seller would be The Liz. It comes in all gold. It’s an envelope-style bag and very minimal and sleek. Because it travels well, it packs very easily in your luggage. Plus it’s basically three bags in one. It comes with a long strap which you can remove to turn the bag into a clutch or wristlet. There’s lots of functionality with it, and it goes with everything.