EAUX speaks to Mary Jardine, owner and creator of Jardine of London, a luxury handbag company based in Bury St Edmunds that is soon to be sold in the newly refurbished Colchester Fenwick store.

What inspired you to start your luxury British handbag brand?

My inspiration for my brand really came from my family.  The Jardine’s are an entrepreneurial bunch who never stop thinking of new innovative business ideas.  I have a serial entrepreneur for a husband and two hugely inspiring sons – one of which at the age of 24 started a company manufacturing charging points for electric cars recently.

I myself had run my own modelling agency and dipped my toe into the world of fashion before raising my children.  The designer streak was always there lying dormant for some time – just before I reached my 50th birthday – I decided I no longer wished to be a spectator on business ideas but wanted to create one myself.  I wanted a new challenge in my life.

What made you decide that you wanted to support British manufacturing?

I felt very strongly about supporting British manufacturing.  When I first started researching the idea of having my bags made in Britain, I was told by many people it would be so much cheaper to have them made abroad and I must be mad.

This was a red rag to a bull and made me more determined to have my products British made.  The benefits of having my bags made here outweighed having them made abroad.  The ease of being able to visit the factory during the sampling process, choosing the materials, keeping a close eye on production and most importantly building relationships with the amazing team who craft my bags.

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How did you make it financially viable for a start-up company?

I looked into many fund-raising methods when I first started – but did not want the huge pressure and time limits of being answerable to outside people in the critical early days of starting my business.

The easiest way was to self-fund it myself – I would only have myself to answer to if it went wrong! Of course the business has to be financially viable or there is no point in doing it – the numbers have to add up and my business model shows a positive result.

Where and how did you find your manufacturing company?

It took hours and hours of research on the internet, visiting trade shows, talking to anybody who would listen.  After many ups and downs – I finally have found a wonderful, highly skilled production team with a rich heritage behind it who can produce the high quality that I require.

Why did you feel passionately about not using overt branding on your bags?

I have always admired designer handbags over the years – but just never wanted to own one with the sometimes, dare I say it, slightly ‘blingy’ branding – I wanted something discrete but still recognizable.  I didn’t want to jump on the tube and see every other woman with the same mass produced branded handbag. Part of my passion was to create something that is recognisable as a brand but beautifully discrete.

Jardine of London Red

Where do you start when beginning to design a new collection?

Any designs I do just have to be part of my own experiences and inspiration.  I don’t believe in taking other peoples designs and just recycling their ideas.

I had always loved handbags – right from the early age of owning a leather music case at the age of 7 – pretending it was a smart handbag as I walked to my piano lessons.  I often wondered what it would be like to take the essence of this design and turn it into a beautiful chic and stylish handbag.  Well all these years later – this is what I hope I have done!

What’s the inspiration behind the name Jardine of London?

When researching the name for my new handbag brand.  I felt it was really important to have my name on the product.  When I started looking into the name Jardine, I discovered the Jardine Star Brooch.  This brooch is a late-Victorian diamond star – it was left to Queen Elizabeth II by Lady Jardine in 1981. The brooch is one of the Queen’s favourites – she wore it on her 90th Birthday as well as on her famous pageant river trip down the Thames for her Diamond Jubilee.

Queen -Black Small

You’re soon to be stocked in Fenwick’s in Colchester, how does this feel and what are your plans for stockists in the future?

When I started the business two years ago – I could only ever have dreamt about being stocked in one of the Fenwick stores.  It is incredibly exciting, especially as this store has just undergone a £30M refurbishment plan which finishes in September.  Fenwick plan to make this store their flagship store in the Eastern area.

Hopefully the word will spread to the other stores about Jardine of London.  This will also give me a good platform to approach other stockists like John Lewis and Selfridges.

Your bags are elegant and classic in design, did you have a particular inspiration or era in mind when creating the collection?

My personal style I hope is elegant and classic and follows through to all my designs – I don’t have a particular era in mind – but I would like to think that my bags are as relevant now and they will be in 50 years time.

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