Tracey Chiappini-Young On What To Ask When Building A Luxury Brand

Tracey Chiappini-Young On What To Ask When Building A Luxury Brand


The luxury goods market has been on an upward climb for many years. Taunina – the name is a combination  of Sotho word ’tau’, meaning ’lion’, and ’NINA’, an acronym for ’No Income, No Assets’ – is a home-grown luxury brand with a difference.

The company gives women who once had no income the power to change their destinies. They are trained to handcraft Taunina’s decorative collections, most notably a range of finely crafted, colourful bears, each one an original.

They come in hat boxes and have their own passports, as well as a hefty price tag.

Co-founder Tracey Chiappini-Young says there are five questions you should ask if you plan to build a sustainable luxury brand.

1. Have you chosen a market with few competitors?

We chose to make teddy bears because they represent love, but also because there are few companies internationally that produce collectible luxury items in this category. That meant the competition would not kill us.

2. How are you capacitating your team?

To build a truly sustainable business that gives people pride in what they do requires more than money. In our case, we had to provide design expertise, extensive training, a route to market, and business skills.

We had to elevate the team to enablethem to make the move from craft to art.


3. Are you prepared to never compromise?

You cannot compromise when it comes to brand positioning. Yes, it will take you longer than you think to grow, but if you compromise to push up volumes, you will do so at thecost of the brand.

Many retailers would like to stock our bears, but we are firm about maintaining control of the brand. Retailers are interested in high turnover. They are not going to worry about whether they sell a bear in a box that has been damaged, or if they hand out the wrong passport.

To build a luxury brand you have to develop a deep and enduring relationship with the customer, and that means you have to control the environment in which your brand is sold.

4. Are you focused on the brand and the product?

In the first year of the business, all we did was build the brand and train our artists to make bears. That meant that by the time we went to market, we had merchandise we were proud of.

You cannot have a brand message without the product to back it up.

By meeting the brand promise we have achieved 200% growth in one year.

5. Will the buyer be proud to own your product or is it a social purchase?

Each creation is one of a kind, made by a single artist over a period of four to seven days in our studio. The fabric is top-quality and each soft toy is embellished with our signature embroidery and appliqué detail.

Every one of them is an heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next. That has enabled us to position these bears as highly desirable items that come at a premium. People don’t buy them as a pity purchase, but as an investment.

Vital Stats

  • Company: Taunina
  • Player: Tracey Chiappini-Young
  • Est: 2011
  • Growth: 100% year-on-year
  • Visit:
Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.