Last fall I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the Founder and Creative Director of the fabulous handbag line with her namesake, Jalda. To be honest, this was the first full blown interview I conducted as a member of Purse Blog. Gearing up for the round of LA based interviews, I re-read the many interviews that Megs and Vlad had already conducted. And I’ll be honest, as I drove up to Jalda’s office I found myself to be a tad nervous. What could I expect? What would she be like? Would the interview go smoothly? Well, with my notepad, pen, camera and recorder in hand, I took a deep breath, walked up the stairs and braced myself. Any worry I previously had was instantly forgotten about when Jalda opened the door, reached out her hand and welcomed me into her office. As we introduced ourselves and began chatting, I could help but find my eyes wondering around her office/showroom. The space was just like Jalda – fabulous and fresh. Light beamed through the windows and caused the handbags to sparkle. Jalda poured both of us a cappuccino and we got started.
PB: How did you get started in handbags?
Jalda: I was in Corporate America, and had been wanting to do something creative for about two years before I finally did, because I wanted to do something creative but what? So finally i had the idea to do computer bags because I was the customer and I really thought there was a hole in the market and I’m like you know… I can do that. I never dared to quite to do handbags because it was so competitive. Obviously I loved handbags, but I wasn’t even a hand-bag freak or anything. I had a great salary, I had a great job and I wouldn’t have dared to quit for something so competitive. I felt like computer bags, I know what I want, I know I have some fashion sense, I know I have a certain income, and I know I’m that woman, and I can’t find anything. I know I can make that, I know I can make a computer bag better than Black Canvas so lets start with that. So I did that and it was OK but I quickly found out that I would pitch handbag buyers not luggage buyers. So you don’t pitch luggage buyers and you pitch handbag buyers. I think there is a huge demand but the buying structure blocks it, to get any kind of real volume in computer bags it is very hard. You have to either be cheap, super well priced and a little more interesting than the next, or it’s just really hard. Boutiques will buy your stuff because it’s their own decision, but to really get mass distribution the buying structure just blocks it, it’s not set up for it.
At the same time my brother’s wife to be asked me to make a hand bag for her wedding, so I designed the whole bag which was fun because by then I knew how to make bags, I knew where to get leather. I made a little evening bag and everyone loved it. The cool thing about this business is you basically do whatever you want, I am the boss. You go to trade shows and I can show whatever I want. I started to show some evening bags, and then maybe some clutches and that started taking over. The clutch stuff just worked, so then the computer bags just got lower and lower on the shelves then there were only a few lined up on the floor. And now I don’t even really do them anymore. I want to again, but the only computer bags that work are part of a bigger collection. I still want to do computer bags because I still think their is a huge demand for it. I’m glad that clutches worked because it’s kind of more fun. You get to use out there leather, and more expensive leather because it’s a smaller bag. I wouldn’t have dared to quit to do that but I morphed into it and it’s what works and I love it. Computer bags are still my baby and I still really want to tap into it but i think the better way to do it is to be really established as a hand bag brand. If it works for the handbag then you can have a set because the bigger stores need to merchandise, they need a collection. So you can have a one-off, but then it has to be somewhat random.
PB: What is your corporate background?
Jalda: I worked for Avery Dennison in the management training program that fast tracks people with more of a strategic background into business management. It was a really great job and program because they take you and basically throw you in the water, and it was either sink or swim. I was running a business unit that made sticky paper that we sold to printers to make stickers out of. It was a really good job but it was already nagging at me because as a kid I was super creative. I just kind of thought that art wasn’t going to get me anywhere although I still loved it, but i didn’t do it for the longest time. Eventually it just came back and nagged me, I wanted to do something more creative. After realizing this wasn’t going to work for me I quit and started working out of my house for a couple years, and next thing you know here I am today.
PB: How is the current economy affecting your business?
Jalda: Right now the economy is really tough on any independence so it definitely hits our industry very hard. Especially because you don’t need a $200 clutch. It’s a luxury item but it’s not the highest end, that would then hit people that really don’t care. So in that sense it is hard, and it’s hard not having a boss that knows better than you. But I have never been in a job this long, and it has never been this satisfying. I love the design part obviously and I love making pretty things.
PB: Do you think having a business background helps your company in the long run?
Jalda: I do think it helps allot especially as you get bigger. I love the mix, I love my accounting system, and I love doing those little reports and that’s the little analytical side of me. I like statistics because it leads to a concrete answer and can even shed light on things you don’t necessarily know. So I do love the number part of the business as well.