Do you want to be successful? How badly? Bad enough to get up before 4 AM every day? That’s how bad Hannah Bartman wants it. She’s willing to work every minute of every day to make her company, Lilia Sport Luxury, a household name {SHOP}. This Chicago-based luxury handbag and accessory brand creates sustainable, functional, and fashionable gym-to-office handbags for busy, modern women. They’re doing it without compromise, and in constant pursuit of excellence. And that all starts with, and comes from Bartman herself. Want to know how she does it? Let’s find out!

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Oh god, there is so much I would say! Don’t be scared to follow what you are passionate about. If you can think it, you can do it. Do something that makes you happy and makes you come alive, because at the end of the day, the world needs more people who have come alive.

How did you find your way into the world of fashion?
I’ve loved fashion and art as long as I can remember. In fact, the birth announcement cards my parents sent out were little credit cards reading “Born to shop”– so I was destined to live up to that in some way. I loved shopping, drawing, dress-up, and as I got older, I was obsessed with looking through magazines, watching red carpet arrivals, and learning about as many designers as I could. When I was in middle school, I started to take drawing classes from a former designer at Vivienne Westwood, made mood boards, and a little blog solely dedicated to images that inspired me to create.

When I finally made the transition to the school of art and design at University of Illinois, I knew I wanted to cater my projects towards the world of fashion. While there was no “fashion degree” offered, there was an Industrial Design degree, which just so happened to be what I was most excited by. Industrial Design taught me to think in the round versus in pattern and cut and sew, which I believe is a huge asset. All the while, I kept calendar alerts and reminders on my computer a year in advance of applying for internships, just to make sure I didn’t miss a beat.

On the day an internship opportunity went live for Under Armour, I woke up as early as possible to submit my application and portfolio, and after a long wait and multiple interviews…I was in! I LOVED getting to work in apparel design, and I loved the people I had the opportunity to work with and meet. That experience ignited something in me, and I knew I wanted to create products that married my love for fitness and fashion.

What is your creative process like?
A LOT of sketching and doodling, which was something pounded into us as Industrial Design students. I then will usually spend a lot of time hunting for inspiration imagery through Pinterest, WGSN, and runway reports to look for design details and textures that really speak to me. If I am ever feeling stuck on something, I try to take a break from working at it or thinking too hard about it. The solution will usually come to me after “shutting off” from the process for a while, usually during a run.
And how do you take your designs and make them a reality?
I was fortunate enough to have hands-on experience in sourcing vendors and suppliers in my previous jobs, and knew how to make a basic tech-pack. But even with that experience, vetting manufacturers that can produce quality products while remaining eco-friendly and ethical and have affordable prices and trade agreements is a LOT of work. I am still learning more everyday and have found that there are a lot of people willing to help, share their resources, or provide a bit of insight. I remind myself that I am trying to explain a lot of new 3-D construction concepts in a 2-D way and through language barriers, so reaching out for help from experts in this area and learning from past mistakes has been vital going into new designs.
What are some features you think will be very helpful about your bags?
One of my favorite features is the insulated water bottle holder (anybody who knows me knows I always preach hydration), and the shoe pouches are equally as exciting, but there are so many pockets and storage features in the bags built to help women with their needs, no matter what their day looks like. The recycled microfiber vegan leather exterior is also SO durable, and doesn’t need to be specially treated like leather, doesn’t absorb odors like leather, and doesn’t easily scratch or get ruined by the elements (which is great, especially here in Chicago where we can experience all 4 seasons in a day).

What is your typical day like?
I wake up at 3:50 or 4:00 am, check any emails or messages from production while I have my breakfast and coffee, and head out of the house just before 5 to go for a run. After my run and any physical therapy exercises or yoga flows to recenter myself, I’ll shower and get started on my day. My days can consist of working through a design tech pack, or back to back phone calls, side projects I am working on, or a LOT of email correspondence and social media work. I make sure to give myself a mental break at some point during the day by either going for a walk, getting a coffee, or running an errand. I am usually recharged by the afternoon, and return to any other projects I’ve laid out for the day.

I try to shut down anywhere from 5-7 pm at the latest and allow myself to catch up on my shows, scroll twitter or TikTok, have dinner, and just kinda veg out. It is SO important to have this me-time, and not have to think about or further stress about projects. I’ll sometimes FaceTime or read the news on my phone before I fall asleep, but I try to fall asleep as early as possible before the early AM wake up.
What is the best part of your job?
Getting to make the big decisions that drive our vision forward!

How would you describe your “Lilia girl”?
The Lilia girl can’t be put into one box. She has passion, drive, and determination in everything that she does. Whether it be her job, her studies, her social life, travels, clubs, committees, social groups, taking care of her family, and of course her own fitness, health and well-being. She is real, and Lilia wants to help her tackle her busy day, every day.
What is your five year plan?
In five years, I aim to have Lilia be a well-recognized name in the city of Chicago, and growing across the nation. Our product line will expand into more accessories, both big and small, and storage features that continue to help women redefine sport. The team will be growing, as well, and I cannot wait to be able to provide opportunities in fashion for the talented creatives of the Chicagoland area, and encourage them to take initiative and explore projects that they are truly passionate about.
And the best business advice you’ve ever received?
There are two bits of advice I always come back to:
There is no such thing as a failed business, just an entrepreneur that gave up. There is always a way. Listen to your customer, listen to the market, pivot if necessary, but never give up. Taking care of business means taking care of yourself. Building a business is a process, and a long one. In order to build long-term success, even during the busiest of times, you have to carve out space to take care of yourself. Keeping a better, healthier, happier you will reflect in your business and your business relations.
The post Women We Love: Hannah Bartman, CEO of Lilia Sport Luxury appeared first on Lux & Concord - A Chicago Lifestyle Blog - A women's lifestyle blog offering inspiration for your closet, career, and more..
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