Jane August Mercer Tassle Clutch - Python, Washed Python, Stingray ($1,390), Washed Lamb ($880)PB: What was the biggest hurdle establishing yourself?

Jane August: Getting the working capital to start my business. I think that it’s tough when you start and you do not have a backer, or any kind of financing. Especially in this day and age, it is very difficult. As your business grows, you need to go back for additional financing. When you have orders for 2-3 million dollars, you need to be able to pay a certain amount up front. Your cash flow is a very, very intricate part of doing any business. You can have the most incredible, beautiful product, but if you do not have the ability financially to do it, it just doesn’t happen. And there are so many talented people out there that can not get the financing that they need.

Jane August 57th Street in Anthracite Python ($3,080)Also, you can have the most awesome product, but unless you have a showroom with sales people that really understand what your product is and what it’s about, you can’t make it happen. I will give you an example. I was with a very big showroom, we did well at the beginning, as well as we thought that I was doing. You don’t really know what the capability is until you really reach the potential of knowing your sales people. I think that they almost put me out of business! I don’t think that their sales people were bad, they had so much jewelry in their showroom that they didn’t understand the other elements of what they had. I don’t think they knew how to sell a handbag. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the customer or price point, because when I went to the next person, she was opening up her own business and she had the same sensibility as I did. She said to me ‘I can take one item and I can make your entire season’. This happened to be with the King’s Road bag. I gave her this one bag, I made 120 pieces of all-black linen to start it off. Within a month, she had sold them all. She started her own clothing line, she wanted her own people in accessories, she didn’t want to compete with what she was starting. She needed somebody to help her pay her rent and help with commissions. She literally turned my business around in one year. When I met Lisa at Sola, it really was going to be the make-it-or-break-it for me. When I would do a bag and I’d repeat it and repeat it, they’d say ‘When does this bag die?’ and I say ‘It doesn’t have to!’. I see people sometimes buying 2 or 3 and they are open to that. A lot of other showrooms would say ‘I need more newness, I need 8 more new!’ Whatever the magic number of newness would be every season. But Sola was open enough to stay with that. We’ve had King’s Road, the long shopping bag, we’ve had 57th Street, on which you can see the escalation of sales. A lot of times, a bag doesn’t come into its own for a year or sometimes two years. When the designer doesn’t believe in it enough to keep it on, you will never know. When you believe in something so strongly, and the sales people will get on that bandwagon, it will happen. It’s like the movie, if you believe in it, it will come. I give a huge amount of credit to the showroom and the sales staff. If you don’t have that behind you, it doesn’t matter what you have.

Jane August 57th Street in Maroon Python ($3,080)So many times, because I have much more of a retail-math/buying/ store line/being on a selling floor, a more diverse background than most designers, I understand the whole process. I just don’t think it’s a sitting-back-looking-at-pretty-leathers and pretty things and making something. If you don’t really understand what your product is, why you think it should be out there, then I don’t think that you will ever be able to have growth in your business. Your showroom and sales personal also needs the stores behind them. It is a big investment, it is not “Made In China” and “Buy at Target for $19.99″. I am not putting down that price point, it is not my market, but it’s that much tougher to sell. I give the showroom a lot of credit, they have an incredible relationship with their stores. Their stores have a relationship with their customer. And that is really the chain. Established relationships are so important. You have to grow your business with new people as well, but if you don’t have those sales people behind you, I don’t think you’ll go anywhere.

PB: The typical Jane August customer?

Jane August: She is ageless. It has nothing to do with age, but with attitude. She is very self-assured. I do not think she wants to see herself coming and going. I think she is very understated. I go back to that word ‘chic’. She could be a little opulent. I don’t necessarily think that she is conservative. I know she is NOT conservative. She is not that Coach customer that is a little more traditional.

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