When Milica Kostic began her consulting career at Deloitte, she came up against a common problem: finding an everyday bag that could fit her laptop, as well as appeal to her personal aesthetic. Anything elegant and professional lacked room and functionality — an issue that became more pronounced as she moved up in her career and began travelling every week for work.
With planes and carry-on limits to contend with, extra essentials to carry, and more needs to be served — there wasn’t one handbag that could take her from the airport, to the office, to a dinner out.
“That’s really when that pain-point became so much more prominent in my mind, and the initial idea started to form,” says Milica. “I realized there was a significant need in the market for designs that would be both functional and sophisticated for the professional woman.”
Not an entrepreneur by nature, it took another push for Milica to consider meeting this need herself — and it came on a vacation to Tuscany. Her tour group visited some local tanneries with open workshops, and she learned about the rich history and quality of the leather industry in the region. “And that’s when something clicked,” she says. “The vision started crystalizing, and a few months after I got back, I started putting pen to paper.”
“I realized there was a significant need in the market for designs that would be both functional and sophisticated for the professional woman.”
She began working on a novel handbag design, from the inside out. “I started by thinking about everything that the average professional woman needs in her handbag, as well as how to make it organized — so you’re not in the middle of a meeting rummaging through your bag to find something,” says Milica.
What she ended up with became her signature interior, with a padded laptop pocket, multiple compartments to store essentials, including separate water bottle, passport and key pockets, and smart features like interior zippers and pen holders. It was all wrapped in a simple and elegant exterior.
“I cannot draw for the life of me, so my first design was on a piece of paper in a coffee shop, with explanations all around,” says Milica, laughing. “It did not resemble a bag.”
She hired a designer to create drawings that could be used by a manufacturer, started drafting a business plan for Voylan and within a year she was back in Tuscany to get the production process started. She knew the quality had to speak for itself, so took her time visiting tanneries, sourcing the best possible leather, and prototyping with manufacturers before selecting a family-run workshop and going into production.
In August of 2019, Voylan debuted with three handbag styles, hand-crafted with their signature compartmentalised interior. By November, Milica had received an email from British Vogue letting her know they loved the line and wanted to include it in their designer profile section.
“We were a recently launched brand, so it was surreal to hear from them,” says Milica. “Not only was it an incredible honour, but also strong reinforcement that we’re on the right track.”
Her business has also been validated by great feedback from her customers — but that doesn’t mean the process of launching Voylan has been without its challenges.
“Going from employee to entrepreneur is a huge transition, and it takes even more discipline and accountability than I imagined,” says Milica. “There are always things you would do differently in hindsight, especially in situations where you are learning on the go. What I am trying to focus on is to learn from everything and continuously improve based upon those past experiences.”
“Going from employee to entrepreneur is a huge transition, and it takes even more discipline and accountability than I imagined.”
In addition to inspiring the design, Milica credits her consulting background with giving her the confidence to pursue the venture, and the capabilities to launch it successfully — from asking the right questions, to being comfortable with ambiguity.
“Being an entrepreneur, it is really hard to anticipate anything in the future — but it’s still important to make those plans,” she says. “You have to have a vision that you can anchor yourself to.”
Milica’s vision for Voylan includes expanding the product line — they’re introducing wallets in the fall, with more products coming next year — while staying true to their commitment to provide exceptional quality, create investment pieces that are still accessible, and address the needs of professional women. For Milica, that’s as much style as it is functionality.
“I have always seen fashion as a form of art and one of the ways by which we communicate a little bit about ourselves,” says Milica. “The fact that it is now a business I am growing is a huge source of personal satisfaction.”