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In the Bag: Claudia Batten

Words by Yu Mei

Claudia Batten with her namesake bag Claudia Tote in Black

Claudia Batten has forged a life that’s hard to condense into a neat introductory paragraph. A huge advocate for both taking and embracing a non-linear career path ( something she refers to as ‘Squiggling’ ), Claudia’s entrepreneurial spirit has seen her at the forefront of numerous ventures in the business and technology spheres. After leaving a job in corporate law to move to New York City, she spent almost twenty years in America helping found a number of startups, including Massive Inc, a gaming advertising network that was later sold to Microsoft.

Closer to home, she’s a longtime friend and supporter of Yu Mei, to the point where we named a bag after her — our beloved Claudia Tote, the ideal companion for jet-setting powerhouses like the woman who inspired it. Now based in Aotearoa, one the many strings to Claudia’s bow involves leading and fostering a community of female NZ-based entrepreneurs, who share everything from advice on business growth to the importance of the Art of Packing.

Read on to hear about Claudia’s advice for fellow ‘Squigglers’, how her namesake Tote matches her personality, and why one of her favourite activities is organising drawers.

Career

I describe what I do with great difficulty! Ultimately, I draw on my skills and experience to help people and companies scale for the future. At the moment I’m channelling that into the work I am doing as a corporate director, but I also have an always-on passion for one-on-one mentoring and advising. I am driven by creating a better future, for people and companies alike — and frankly the two are deeply interwoven.

My career path has been very non-linear. I’ve taken a lot of risks and definitely walked a more uncertain path.( 1 ) I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, as I am passionate about supporting and cultivating this in others. It ultimately comes down to having an incredibly deep faith or trust that you will figure out how to succeed. I learnt to back myself from a pretty young age, and I continue to push into that space. This is anything but about being arrogant — in fact it’s deeply humbling, as most of what happens on the path to success is what many would call failure. Hence the term I like to use, squiggling — we go backwards and sideways ( and, thankfully, occasionally forwards ) on the path to greatness. To someone taking a similarly non-linear path, I’d say to get a great network of supporters around you. You need to be able to give someone a call on a Sunday when it all feels like it’s falling apart. Incidentally they are the same people you drink champagne with when it all comes together.

The best lesson I’ve learnt in my career is that everything is an opportunity, no matter how shitty it might look on the surface. Your toughest challenges can become the beginnings of your greatest triumph. The number of stories of incredible success that start with what went wrong will blow your mind.

Design

I have to fight my natural magpie instincts, or I would look like a walking Christmas tree. I’m super tall and I don’t shy away from heels, so it means my style is quite sedate. Aspirationally I would call it downtown chic, which is a New York reference and means I wear a lot of black. My style heroes are Carine Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt.

My namesake Claudia Tote very much speaks to my style and personality, because I spend most of my time working on the road, so I need to travel with my office. The biggest thing it says about me is, “I will happily work anywhere.” It’s also incredibly pragmatic, which is me on any given day — I am a super organised person who loves having what I need on hand to get the job done. I love the Adrian Envelopes for the same reason, and I always have them ready to go with post-it notes, index cards, my favourite pens and even pen refills. They live in my Claudia with an Emily Pouch, which has all my other go-tos for travel permanently packed. I’m so organised when it comes to packing my bag. I have devised a full system for how everything fits into it.

My favourite feature of the Claudia Tote is the hidden zip, which converts the external pocket to a sleeve that slides over a suitcase handle. None of my other luxe bags have this detail, and it’s a neck-saver. ( 2 ) This is a little indulgent, but I have the Canvas and the Black Claudia and will match the bag to my vibe for the day. Canvas is much more Cali-girl cool, and the black is way more NYC.

Life

I am not very good at routine. I get bored easily and it’s probably my greatest existential crisis, as I wonder what I could achieve if I was a bit more regimented. Most days involve a lot of reading and learning, more email than I would like, a couple of calls and yoga and/or a walk. I am supposed to be doing more writing to finish my Squiggly Life book, but I am being very resistant to that at the moment!

I’m huge on incorporating regenerative practices into my life and style. I buy quality clothes and shoes that I take excellent care of, so that I minimise what goes into the landfill. We compost hardcore and have a worm farm that allows us to compost cardboard boxes. I work really hard to eliminate packaging and basically refuse water if it comes in a plastic bottle. There are so many options now that it’s getting much easier to make good decisions. I love the company Good For, and their hyper-minimal approach to grocery.

My favourite way to unwind involves heaps of the usual suspects, like hanging with friends, cooking and so on.( 3 ) But my favourite thing to do, which is super weird, is to organise cupboards and drawers. I did this well before Marie Kondo ( who I love ) became popular, as it has always felt very calming to me to get things sorted and organised. Though my poor husband never knows where anything goes, as I am always creating new systems!

Utility

When it comes to getting ready in the morning, I have a bunch of go-to outfits that I sort-of prestyle, so I don’t have to think about it too much in the moment. But I have to say I do think major moments of style greatness happen when you just throw things on, so I will do that — when I am not running late!

I am embarrassingly a “drink coffee and read news” first thing person. It’s not optimal. I am working on getting out in the morning as outdoor light exposure is so deeply beneficial ( Andrew Huberman is big on this, and I’m obsessed with his neuroscience approach to life ). I am also a big fan of Julia Cameron’s morning pages practice, and do that almost every morning before anything else.

I never go anywhere without my phone ( with lots of downloaded podcasts and music ), charger, Bose headphones, Fresh SPF15 lip balm, Nespresso travel mug, a collection of my favourite tea bags, and a pen and paper ( which is an old habit, but I love handwriting notes over using my phone ).

Recommendations

I have a lot of tips and tricks for making life a little easier, and I actually write a weekly newsletter that is designed for this. My all time favourite ( which I am using now to focus on writing this ) is to download the focus binaural beats playlist from Spotify, and play that when you need to get work done. The science is a little dollar-each-way, but I swear I put this on and suddenly it’s an hour later and I have cranked through a bunch of to-do items.

[1] Claudia Batten and Estelle Dévé are similar in that their careers have not been linear, often taking risks and walking an uncertain path. Claudia notes that “your toughest challenges can become the beginnings of your greatest triumph.” Words to live by we say.

[2] Sinead Boucher and Claudia Batten have ambition, success and the Claudia Tote in common. Claudia’s namesake tote, has a zip that converts the external pocket into a sleeve that slips over a suitcase, and we can endorse the necksaving qualities. Genius!

[3] Cooking and friends go hand in hand for both Claudia Batten and Ruby Wilkinson, as a way to unwind and bring people together. Sometimes the brilliant basics are all you need.

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