Karen Pence trade mission to Japan

First Lady Karen Pence visits the Vera Bradley store at Marui Yurakucho in Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district, to celebrate the designer’s entrance into Japan.

By Jesse Wilson

Indiana first lady Karen Pence visited a Vera Bradley store in Marui Yurakicho in Ginza - an upscale shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo - as part of a state trade mission meant to boost economic development.

Japan is the first international market that Fort Wayne-based Vera Bradley has entered.

"The colors and styles of Vera Bradley bags are iconic of Indiana, as the company is headquartered in our state," Karen Pence said. "My daughter Charlotte and I were thrilled to find this reminder of home here in Japan and see that love for this special brand really does cross cultures.

"It was exciting to discover for ourselves the real magnitude of Vera Bradley, which is proof that a great idea and a little Hoosier ingenuity can take you around the world," Pence said in a statement.

The first lady and her daughter are traveling with Gov. Mike Pence as part of the Republican's first foreign trade trip as governor. Karen Pence has been presenting Vera Bradley products to Japanese officials as gifts during the trip.

Vera Bradley's store manager and other associates at the Marui Yurakicho store, one of the company's best performing Tokyo locations, took Karen and Charlotte Pence on a tour and explained that the store is exploring new ways to reach out to new and different customers.

Representatives from the Japan External Trade Organization, which helped Vera Bradley launch in Tokyo, were also present.

Vera Bradley was founded in Indiana 31 years ago by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller. The inspiration for the company came from a lack of attractive luggage for women at the airport. Vera Bradley has grown into a company that has 79 retail stores and 14 outlet stores in addition to products in hundreds of other locations.

Vera Bradley announced that it plans to invest $26.6 million into the growth of its Fort Wayne operation, a move that is expected to create 128 new jobs by 2017.

Jesse Wilson is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.