Making a Case for Working Women


Julie Cantor

As a doctor and lawyer with degrees from Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and Yale, Julie Cantor doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate to be designing handbags. It is, however, her work as an attorney that led Cantor to develop Harlen, a luxury collection tailored to the needs of career-minded women.

“We call them ‘modern career pieces,’ which I think captures a lot of what they do and what they are,” she said.

Building this collection was no easy task, as Cantor would only work with the finest artisans. Launched in November 2017, Harlen is manufactured in Italy, adhering to the region’s fine leather-working traditions. The line relies on 13 ateliers with contractors that range from designers to art directors.

“The people I met to work with weren’t easy to find, and I met with a lot of different people. They were truly the finest people. They work, and their families have worked with them for the last 50-plus years, with what are truly the finest brands in the world,” Cantor said.

The collection can be viewed in Cantor’s 1,300-square-foot showroom in Santa Monica, Calif., and her clientele is grateful that the attorney turned designer was able to produce the pieces they had needed but could never find. “There were not adequate pockets for my computer, iPad Pro, iPad Pencil, power chargers, cell phone and don’t even get me started about finding my keys,” said Rabbi Lori Shapiro of The Open Temple in Venice, Calif. “When I saw Julie’s Harlen at her house party, I thought, ‘Beautiful, and what’s more, she’s thinking.’ The bag makes sense. And it’s elegant. A total win-win.”

Utility isn’t the only concern of the Harlen client, who is not only focused on her career but also is stylish and driven to purchase goods using only luxurious materials and the highest level of handcrafted work. The pieces feature Alcantara-lined interiors and Raccagni’s Super R zippers, which include pulls using a custom mold created exclusively for Harlen.

“This is a well-researched and high-quality piece that reflects the demands of women executives,” said Renee Delphin-Rodriguez, an attorney and champion runner. “Harlen pieces have a unique shape and design that set [them] apart from other similarly priced bags.”

As a lawyer who performs a large amount of advocacy work, Cantor also wanted to ensure that her business contributed to the greater good. “We have a philanthropic arm where we sponsor girls’ education,” Cantor said.

The next step for Cantor is to elevate the line to an experiential opportunity where clients meet, exchange ideas and learn about the solutions that can be found through her collection. “The other piece that I would like to do is to have events that I want to call ‘Harlen Happenings.’ Have people talk about interesting issues or a book that they’ve written, or a musician or artist,” she said.

The Harlen Collection is sold at Pieces retail from $3,000 to $55,000.