Got to love social media hey? A chance ‘virtual meeting’ via Twitter recently put me in touch with award-winning handbag designer Jennifer Hamley.
In 2015 Jennifer’s first handbags quickly gained a high profile amongst her peers when she won both best workbag and Instyle magazine reader’s choice categories at the Independent Handbag Designers Awards in New York.
Fast forward to 2017 and a few tweets later, one DM and we’re exchanging proper emails and chatting about tlfw, female tribes and collaboration. When I saw the bags I immediately fell in love with her elegance-meets-functional design. Jennifer Hamley’s are proper grown-up bags for life and an absolute antithesis to fast-fashion and cheap high street items where you can’t be truly sure how or where the bags were made. As grown up consumers at tlfw we like the idea of knowing how things are made and that the designer has consciously considered us and our needs. Jennifer sums it up describing her bags as
Symbols of female confidence, visibility and success.
My response… ‘Oh my god, Jennifer Hamley you are so up our alley!’
But we all know looks aren’t everything and us ladies require depth and personality! This is what makes her collection of bags and purses so innovative. The designs have fantastic special features made with the professional women in mind such as with the Model KT (and Mini KT) there’s a hands-free travel card system so you don’t even have to get your Oyster or travel card out – just place the flap on the card reader and go. Lovely stuff.
Despite being at a networking retreat over the weekend and landing in NYC for a party and award ceremony yesterday, Jennifer took the time to answer a few direct questions for me last night. And there’s more.
LADIES…SHE’S GIVING AWAY A BAG!
Read on to find out how.
I asked her,
Were you always destined to be a designer: what made you decide to pursue a career in fashion?
Yep, always a designer and creator – I remember as a child thinking how exciting being a designer was – it looked so fun, being able to do something I love and then getting paid for it. I’m not even sure I knew what it entailed above drawing, colouring in and making models, yet these are things I’ve always loved. Creativity is my super happy place. The career in fashion was more of a surprise to me, but I love both solving problems and creating beautiful things that make you feel good, so handbag design fits my passions perfectly.
What prompted you to start your own brand?
I was running another business at the time, accessories and feather hair pieces which had developed a small cult following. I thought that I needed to make a success of that before I followed my dream of starting my own handbag label. But one day during a chance conversation, I was asked what I was waiting for? Why didn’t I start my dream now? That conversation, with a lady called Katie, spurred me into action and I haven’t looked back. Actually, the Model KT and Mini KT designs are named after Katie. The conversation with her was a true turning point in my life.
What inspires you as a designer?
The strength of women inspires me, plus I love to create things that make lives easier, and even more fabulous. Women are passionate, flamboyant, gentle, beautiful, volatile and strong. We lead hectic, exciting, crazy lives, and take it all in our stride (sometimes even in heels!)
Can you tell us something about your creative process and how the bags are made?
I value customer research in my design process and spend time asking what women want – I love hearing from ladies about what they are looking for in the perfect bag! From there I sketch (all my hand as I still adore drawing), create card and fabric models to test and get samples made, which also get tested to tweak and remove any potential design flaws.
Who would your fantasy client be (dead or alive, real or fictional)?
Amal Clooney would be my dream customer!
What’s in your handbag?!
Haha, great question! My essentials are;
My phone – I use it for work so much – video/photo editing, social media, research, design – I have so many apps!
A charger and power pack – because of the above
Pens and a pencil – for notes and sketching
Wallet – I like a small wallet so I love our Sakura purse design, organised and compact (the beauty of designing my own pieces – I get exactly what I want in a purse!)
Headphones – I listen to audio-books on business a lot, as well as YouTube inspiring videos and audio plus guided meditations. My headphones are my signal to people around me that I mustn’t be disturbed when I’m working in a shared space too.
Business Cards – you never know who you’re going to meet
A5 Notebook – for essential ideas capturing (for all that I use my phone, I still use a notebook for ideas and sketches)
Bottle of water – I got this reusable bottle a couple of years ago in NYC and it goes everywhere with me – I love that it is rainbow coloured.
Keys – with the cutest mini hairbrush keyring which was a gift from my mum
Book – currently reading ‘You Have the Power to Change Stuff – Chapter One’ by Daniel Flynn of Thankyou brand
Leatherman Juice – because you never know when you might need a corkscrew…
Thanks to Jennifer Hamley for giving me her time. Now the moment we’re all waiting for…