Inspired by the unrivalled durability of bespoke menswear and the classic design of vintage motorcars and luxury watches, JAM LOVE combines the finest materials, including vegetable-tanned leather and heritage waxed canvas from Lake Como, Italy with the best of British craftsmanship for theirr bags and leather accessories.
House of Coco spent some time with the inspiring designer behind the brand, Jia, to find out more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
Jam Love London AW 2014 début collection was launched in May, 2014. My progression as a handbag and specialist product designer came after spending ten years learning my trade in a number of competitive and challenging markets, including the US, Japan and Europe, where I assisted other international brands to design, source and make products from Far East countries. I travelled every month and visited many countries. I witnessed how supply chains work and the impact of globalisation. There is a certain madness to all this. I handled costing sheets that shrunk down cheaper labour costs to benefit the designers’ profit, but this significantly increased the carbon footprints that we added to the handbag design.
After returning and living in the UK for the last two years, I resolved to create a brand that can ‘live local and source local’ whenever possible. I want to be regarded first and foremost as a ‘made in Britain’ producer, not, despite my origin, a made in China one.
Coincidentally, I was involved in a parallel business interest in the 19th century traditions of the British Letterpress industry. My logo design is inspired by the same source and I started my journey of launching Jam Love London, Made in England.
What is your background?
I was born in a heavenly beautiful textile city called Hangzhou, in China. But my grandparents brought me up in the capital city, Beijing, before I moved to London to be reunited with my family when I was a teenager.
In London, I completed an Art & Design Foundation course at Central St Martins and gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Product Design & Development for the Fashion Industries from the London College of Fashion in 2002.
Following a hard-won internship as a designer assistant on 5th Avenue, New York, I then continued to pursued my career in the fashion industries in London and Tokyo. This experience has allowed me to expand my vesititly as a designer. My brand, Jam Love London, and the collection are infused with a cosmopolitan aesthetic.
People from all over Europe and the UK are involved in our brand. Despite the company being young, with only a few people directly involved, hundreds of trained technicians make our beautiful material out at our supplier which has a hundred years of history in Italy; dozens of British craftsmen create our quality handbags by a combination of traditional hand-stitching and machine manufacturing.
A great deal of effort goes in to the design concept and product development, before a new piece goes into production. It takes time and understanding of how to make the product and understanding how it will be used, to ensure its high quality will last a long time.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
I have never thought about how I may do it differently. It has happened naturally as my life has grown, the powerful inspirations and my working desire had occurred to me at the right moment. Timing is important. As such, the business has evolved very naturally.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
To source and decide where to manufacture our products.
It took me 11 months to travel the world from China, Italy and return to the UK to compare the craftsmanship of quality handbag making. I also drove up and down from the Midlands to the South Coast of the UK and finally reached the manufacturer with whom I can build up the trust to work together. I need to work with people who are extremely experienced, honest and, most importantly, who can look after our material and design as my new born child.
There are too many of these. As a new designer, it’d take years for the consumer followers to know me, the designer behind Jam Love. The first fact that I would like to share is that I crave ‘love’, hence the brand Jam Love. From design inspirations, to original material, to craftsmanship, to final end-users who reach out to me for products are all people who have ‘fallen in love’ with me – the Jam. I hope they would respect that I am hardworking and that I never given up, which is why the brand has been born.
2015 is upon us, where do you plan on taking the brand?
Year 2015 will become a very productive year for us to grow.
We will keep knocking on the doors of departments stores in Britain with our latest collection – A Dream of You & Me. This collection was inspired by 19th century British letterpress wood types, borders, corner fills and ornaments. Original hand printed textile art be transferred to Italian digital print onto the luxury bonded linen cotton canvas. Combined the canvas with the finest vegetable tanned bridle leather, we created the new cosmopolitan British handbags that fit for everyday use.
We will add value to our brand by bring our products to Time – Contemporary Fashion Award Milano; and The Independent Handbag Designer Awards in US.
I was invited by Italian MF Fashion journalist Michael Zio for the Time Award last year. She adored my beautifully designed and well made handbag. She said she had never seen a gorgeous work-bag like mine and she would love me to bring the brand to Milan to join the award.
I also have a plan to join the independent handbag awards in NYC this Summer. It was also by coincident, the organiser of the awards Emily Blumenthal, she spotted my new look book cover through a social media channel. She emailed and then followed up with me with details about the awards in NYC. She truly loved my product images through our brand social media post. From her professional eye, she could sense that a brand that represents beauty and function had arrived.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
In a short period of ten months since our launching of the debut collection, Jam Love London handbags are now selling in London, Cambridge, Tokyo, NYC, and through international website shopping distributors in Europe. The debut collection had been featured in June, Drapers Magazine and August, Vogue UK – The Handbag Handbook edition. Our coming collection had received interviews from Japan, i.e. Gold magazine, Tokyo Shinbun newspaper, and British local Chinese media China Daily.
What inspires each collection?
A compelling feature of the bag’s design is their engineered simplicity and intelligence without compromising on style and desirability as a fashion accessory – something the discerning bag lover will appreciate.
Aside from being a great looking glamorous bag, the engineering and careful stress testing of the Jam Love design is as much the story of the bag itself. Functional without cutting corners, simple styling without resorting to a monogrammed look. Ultimately achieving the classic look that is – ‘elegant and practical‘ but also ‘useful and beautiful.
Where can people find out more? (website/social media)