Thanks to my dear friend Sari Brown at Lux Couture, Vlad and I were able to meet another fabulous new designer while in New York City last month, Jennifer Alfano. While Jennifer is newer to the handbag world, she has been in the world of fashion for over twenty years. We went to her office in New York City to meet Jennifer and her consultant Dawn. She had just sent quite a few of her spring bags out the morning that we arrived, but the selection for us to see was still great and I could not help but lust after her vibrant exotics. The best part of her office is the board behind her desk, with a hand drawn picture of a purse, compliments of her daughter. We sat down with Jennifer to learn more about her handbags, why she focuses on exotic, and some little known facts about her. Enjoy and make sure to check out her bags that are marked down at Lux Couture right now – grab one while you can!
PB: How did you get into the Fashion World?
JA: My background in fashion is being a fashion editor. I started almost 20 years ago at Vogue magazine then I went to Bazaar. I left and helped launch Lucky Magazine. Then I had my second daughter and went back to Bazaar as fashion features director. After that I left and was writing for them as a contributor.
PB: How did you transition into handbags?
JA: I always thought if there was something I couldn’t find in fashion that I loved, I would try it myself. I could never find a handbag that I liked. There is a lot out there that is the same and a lot with bells and whistles. I am more of a minimalist. I love 60’s era fashion, like Jackie O; chic, classic but not boring. I couldn’t find it so I decided to make handbags.
I have a love of well-made handbags. I feel like a lot of designers do not put a lot of thought in their handbags. They aren’t designing for women; they are designing to be trendy. There were many problems, I opened my bag and it was like a black hole.
The other thing about handbags is you always need one; you don’t have to be a certain shape, size, or age to appreciate it. Handbags say a lot about a person. What I want from a handbag is a handbag that speaks to your personality but doesn’t have so much personality that you don’t see the person.
PB: Where are your handbags made?
JA: They are all made in Italy. Luxury should really be made in a way that means luxury; it should not be mass-produced. While some buyers do not care, I think there are plenty of women who care how a handbag is made. The man who makes my samples makes the runway samples for Chanel. He is fantastic and it is a pleasure to work with people like that!
PB: What made you choose to focus on exotics?
JA: I like the colors that I can do with exotics and the saturation of the colors. The exotic market is so big right now. I think my bags are very unique and many people look for a unique exotic bag. For next fall I will be working with ostrich. I have everyday bags, but I am looking for my bags to be something else.
PB: Who is the typical Jennifer Alfano buyer?
JA: It is somebody who likes fashion but is not super trendy. Many women in their 30’s or 40’s, who work or have kids or both. It is the woman who has the lifestyle and the children. She is me!
PB: Who is your fashion icon?
JA: I like Lee Radziwill and Jane Birkin- classic, American chic, and a little Bohemian.
PB: If you wanted somebody to wear your bag, who would it be?
JA: If I wanted somebody to wear my bag it would be Sophia Coppola, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Jennifer Connolly, or Kate Bosworth (she is cute!). I really like that early 60’s-70’s moment in fashion.
PB: What colors will we see from you the seasons coming up?
JA: I hope pink doesn’t come back, because I’ll be in trouble! I am not a fan of pink. But I will be using purple, clear blues, teal, red, and mustard. I am getting more adventurous with colors.
PB: What can we expect from you in the future?
JA: Belts are definitely coming. I am expanding the collection into more exotics. I have other ideas for sure, but this is where I am going for now!
PB: How important is celebrity exposure to you?
JA: I need it for sure. But I think the people who buy my handbags don’t need to see celebrity exposure to buy my bags. But for press it is important. To build a brand today this is an important element, but this is not my customer. I would like it and it certainly doesn’t hurt though! I don’t think the woman who buys my bag will buy it because she saw it on a celebrity, but it might bring me another customer.
PB: What online stores currently carry your bags?
PB: What is your everyday bag?
JA: The Getaway, the Morgan, and the Allegra. I am not a big bag switcher. I like two clutches and two day bags a season!
PB: What is in your handbag?
JA: Hermes agenda, business cards, pens, NARS lipstick, chap stick, Blackberry, crossword puzzle from the NYT! I always have my crossword puzzle. I try to edit what I have in my handbag and I get very angry when someone over stuffs it!
PB: What do you indulge in?
JA: Chocolate from Maison du Chocolat!
PB: Where??! What? We love chocolate!
JA: Maison du Chocolat is at Madison Ave and 79th! It is French, and is the best! It is very serious chocolate.
PB: What is your weekend like?
JA: I have two daughters; they are 8 and 6. We go to basketball practice, flag football, family dinner. We just chill out on the weekends and have family time.
PB: Are your girls handbag lovers?
JA: My little one does, the older one doesn’t! The Allegra and the Marina are named after my daughters. But they are very critical with me and will tell me “I hope you are not making that bag because it is not very good!” And they are right actually!
PB: Do you live in the City?
JA: I live in Westchester.
PB: Do you have a favorite spot in New York?
JA: Central Park. And Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel; I love all classic New York things. I like the Neue Gallery. It is owned by the Lauder’s (like Estee Lauder) and is Austrian art.
PB: Interesting fact about you that no one knows?
JA: I trained to be a classical dancer for 14 years. I wasn’t going to go to college. I decided to go to college in New York. My dad said, “what if you break both of your legs?” So I said, “Fine!” and decided to go to NYU. I quit dancing my senior year of college, it was just time.
PB: We were both athletes in college too!
JA: Sports give you the discipline to start your own business. You really have to be focused and be willing to keep going through the ups and downs.
PB: It was a pleasure meeting you! Thank you for everything!
As Vlad snapped pictures of the fabulous bags Jennifer Alfano has for the upcoming seasons, Jennifer, Dawn (Jennifer’s consultant), Vlad and I chatted as if we were old friends. We absolutely adored Jennifer and Dawn, who were down to Earth and such a pleasure to meet. Expect to only hear more about this designer as Style.com’s Holiday Guide features the Jennifer Alfano Marina Clutch. Look for many more exciting bags from this new designer!