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First lady Karen Pence visits the Vera Bradley store Tuesday at Marui Yurakucho in Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dining and entertainment district.

Following Vera Bradley to Japan

Governor’s wife visits Tokyo store on trade mission

– First lady Karen Pence celebrated a Fort Wayne business Tuesday when she visited the Vera Bradley store at one of Tokyo’s most famous shopping districts.

“The colors and styles of Vera Bradley bags are iconic of Indiana, as the company is headquartered in our state,” 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.”

In Japan on a trade mission, Pence is presenting Vera Bradley totes and accessories as one of her gifts.

Fort Wayne-based Vera Bradley – a designer of handbags, gifts, travel items and accessories – launched in Japan in April 2011 with a website and a pop-up store.

This is the first international market that Vera Bradley has entered. The company’s Japanese marketing efforts have since expanded to selling in 14 department stores.

The manager of the Vera Bradley store led Gov. Mike Pence’s wife and daughter on a tour of the store and discussed the company’s efforts to connect the brand with Japanese consumers.

The homegrown-Indiana company was founded 31 years ago by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller, who were inspired to start the company when they noticed a lack of feminine-looking luggage while waiting at an airport terminal.

Today, the company’s products are available at 79 Vera Bradley retail stores and 14 outlet stores in the United States. The company employs about 50 in Japan, 1,000 in Indiana and a total of 2,600.

Pence’s visit comes on the heels of Vera Bradley’s announcement last month that it plans to invest $26.6 million to grow its Fort Wayne operations, creating up to 128 new jobs by 2017.

This is the designer’s second major expansion in northeast Indiana in less than two years. In 2011, the company made plans to invest $22.5 million to expand its Roanoke distribution center to 420,000 square feet, adding 124 new jobs.