Paying excess luggage fees is a way of life for international traveler Suzanne Coppola, not because of any fashion vanity but because she can't resist wonderful finds that she uncovers off the beaten path, whether it's in a dusty back alley in Hong Kong or a fabric house in Istanbul.
That talent for discovering the fabulous in unexpected places combined with a certain business acumen has led this Tanglewood resident to create an e-commerce website poised to rival One Kings Lane.
Laurier Blanc launched in April with more than 200 delectable items ranging from home decor accessories to furniture to jewelry. "I'm not a designer per se," Coppola said in her sunny home that is filled with intriguing goodies from her travels. "I just appreciate interesting things."
"It's about incorporating a level of social responsibility into the brand so that we can give back. "
Among those interesting things currently on the site are a vintage silver leopard from that alley in Hong Kong, painted ceramic Turkish bowls from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and Katie Design alligator wrap bracelets with saintly studs (a pair of which she was wearing on this recent morning).
The site is populated with items she has collected over the years as well as treasures from recent travels to Southeast Asia, Africa, London, Marrakech and Paris. Many of those she brought home in her over-stuffed luggage, her myriad finds often requiring the purchase of additional suitcases to carry the load. Thus, the pesky extra luggage fees.
Not surprisingly, the Coppola home is beautifully decorated with finds from her travels, many of which are available on the website. Artwork from Paris on the mantle, pillows made from Turkish fabric on the sofas and a large curio cabinet in the corner are just part of the Laurier Blanc domestic picture.
Inspired by her passion for travel and with the aid of a discerning eye, Coppola has been dreaming of this business opportunity for 10 years and working on the business plan for some time. Prior to transferring from London to Houston with her husband, a banker in the energy field, she had been a partner at Heidi Klein, the British swimwear and resort wear company.
"I feel very passionate about what I'm doing. I love to travel and who doesn't love to shop."
With a milestone 40th birthday recently under her belt and her two sons, aged 2 and 4, growing, Coppola decided that 2014 was the year to follow her dream. But it's not strictly business. In addition to the commercial aspect, she has coalesced a charity component within the website. Each quarter, Coppola will give a percentage of proceeds to a selected charity. "It's about incorporating a level of social responsibility into the brand so that we can give back," she says.
The first charitable recipient is Husk for Communities, a non-profit based in Cambodia. In addition to the donation, Coppola is offering several of the Husk products on her website. She is working now to target a charity in Marrakech for the second quarter.
"I feel very passionate about what I'm doing," she explained of this new endeavor. "I love to travel and who doesn't love to shop." It's the best of both worlds for Coppola who travels six times a year, exploring the major design markets and far flung destinations, ferreting out the special finds that shoppers don't ordinarily have access to.
Although born in Florida, Coppola grew up in Annapolis, Md., and lived in New York and Houston before moving to London and marrying her husband. They moved back to Houston several years ago.