We all travel. But not all of us travel in style. WBJ Observer investigates Metka by Traczka, a lingerie baggie business and the brainchild of Anna Traczewska, a marketing professional turned style guru
By John Beauchamp
I get the call. “Just coming now,” and five minutes later we head down ul. Grottgera, a quiet street known for its boutique start-ups in a green part of Warsaw’s Mokotów district. I’m out to meet Anna Traczewska, the brains behind her own boutique lingerie baggie business, Metka by Traczka.
We open the door to the studio and let in Lusia, a lively Sheltie who rushes in and starts barking at us to hurry up and get inside; there’s a frost out.
The studio is divided into two parts: the “front-end,” where the business is done, and the “back-end,” where a wall of multi-colored fabrics wraps itself around you, and the side workbench, with the Łucznik-brand sewing machine which makes it all happen.
“I’ve been doing this for going on eight years,” Traczewska told me while I swipe a glance at some baggies in progress.
When it all began
Warsaw’s gearing up for Christmas in 2006. “I was strapped for cash and I didn’t have any money to get presents for my friends, and I fell on the idea that I’ll buy a piece of fabric and make them travel bags for their lingerie, embroidered with the words ‘wash me’ ‘wear me,’ or ‘clean,’ ‘not so clean.’ … The girls were absolutely delighted,” Traczewska said with a smile.
But it didn’t end there. “Soon afterwards, I was getting calls asking me to sew some more.” This time, she started earning some money from her newfound baggie fame, marking the beginning of Metka by Traczka, purveyors of boutique lingerie baggies.
“At the very beginning I wasn’t certain that this would grow into something bigger, so my investments were minimal, mostly in fabrics, but the biggest investment I made was my time and finding out where I would get my threads, string, fabrics and other supplies,” Traczewska said.
As a newly-crowned entrepreneur, Traczewska turned to the internet to reach out to clients, going first to pakamera.pl and decobazaar.com, both Polish online boutique stores, although she has expanded her list to sell her wares on other such sites internationally, including etsy.com.
“I sell 80 percent of my products online,” she said, adding that when starting out, a full-on internet presence was a must. “Just setting up a Facebook page isn’t enough … It’s all about creating the brand.”
Luckily for Traczewska, she already had a background in marketing. “I had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands in my life,” she said, adding that once the brand is there, it needs to be nurtured.
“A brand is an emotional relationship with a product, so the fact that this idea came from the heart … and the fact my products are hand-made has meant that they are appreciated.”
Without going as far as creating a stand-alone website, Traczewska set up a blog which acted as an archive of all the products that she made with Metka by Traczka, as well as a way to communicate with her growing number of followers.
“I often find myself going back to the blog to remind myself of the names which I used for the items I produced a few years ago,” Traczewska said.
Now she has a running series on the Metka by Traczka blog called “Around the World,” where people send in their pictures of Traczewska’s baggies in exotic locations. What started as a one-off thing – a client got the ball rolling by sending pictures from Halong Bay in Vietnam – has now on taken a life of its own.
“Now I get so many pictures from across the world that I have to check on Google Maps to see where these places are!” Traczewska said.
Back to business
What started out as a small-scale enterprise turned into something bigger for Anna Traczewska. “At the beginning I was happy I sold anything at all,” she said, saying that the moment she managed to pay for a holiday to Egypt was when she realized she was onto something big.
“It took me about three years to really get the business going, but you have to remember that I’m running a small-scale business; it will never grow into mass-production and I don’t want to go down that path,” she added. “I wouldn’t have dreamed then that I would be able to make a living doing this.”
A few years down the line and Metka by Traczka has branched out from baggies to laptop sleeves and yoga-mat carriers for trendy urbanite 30-somethings. But the baggies remain at the top of the sales list.
And they’re not just being sold to individual clients, either. Despite keeping it small-scale, Metka by Traczka now gets offers from corporate clients.
“Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed that my baggies, which, after all, form an intimate part of someone’s travel baggage, could be manufactured as corporate gifts, but it turns out that a lot of companies – including a number of large cosmetic brands on the Polish market – now buy my baggies for their clients, contractors and journalists,” Traczewska said, adding that travel agencies are also getting in on the baggie craze.
In order to manage with all her corporate and individual orders, Traczewska decided to delve into the world of corporate social responsibility, taking on four part-time helpers whom she found on niepelnosprawni.pl, an internet site for the disabled. “These are people with major disabilities, but they are great at what they do and their willpower is amazing,” Traczewska said.
While Traczewska still aims to hold on to her baggie empire, she does dream about the future.
“I am convinced that in five years’ time Metka by Traczka will be alive and kicking, and that I might have my own internet shop or even my own boutique on ul. Mokotowska: or maybe not,” she explained.
However, “the aim isn’t to make huge sums of money, the point is to have a cool brand, although I do dream about interiors and home accessories,” Traczewska added.
Having created such a niche label and nurturing the brand, it seems that Metka by Traczka may do just that. Lusia the Sheltie yaps in agreement.