Celebrity fans include Naomi Watts, Emma Watson and Rosamund Pike are fans of Jardine of London luxury handbags.
“The good bit comes now.”
So proclaims Mary Jardine, a British entrepreneur who two years ago, looking for the Next Thing to do, launched Jardine of London to create a line of British-made luxury handbags. “I’ve spent the last two years setting up the business from a blank canvas,” she said in a phone interview with Millionaire Corner. “It has taken all that time to do the research, to launch, and to get my website up and running.”
Today, the bags are making a splash. “Offers women timeless and elegant handbags which are practical and understated in the branding,” noted luxury lifestyle magazine Nativa World just this week. Celebrity fans include Naomi Watts, Emma Watson and Rosamund Pike.
The entrepreneurial spirit burns bright in Jardine. At the beginning of the decade, she launched a modeling agency, East One Models, which helped to find models for area businesses. She later ran a modeling competition under the auspices of Models 1, one of Europe’s largest and most successful modeling agencies.
After taking time off to raise her two young sons, she decided the time was right to “do something different,” she said. “I love handbags. I don’t like the ostentatious brands with all the branding on the outside, which seem to be saturating the market at the moment. I wanted something clean, classic, and timeless.”
Starting from scratch posed several challenges, she said. From the beginning, she was keen on manufacturing the bags in Britain. “That was the crux of the whole thing,” she said. “I really wanted to support British manufacturing, which has an appeal to other parts of the world, I like to think.”
Finding someone to make the bags was hard, she said. “That involved hours and hours of research, speaking to people and going to exhibitions. After a few false starts, I have a wonderful production team north of London. They are fifth generation. I feel in safe hands.”
A brand tells a story, Jardine notes, and she wants the Jardine brand to convey luxury, quality and craftsmanship with “timeless and classic” designs. “We won’t be producing a seasonal collection,” she said.
The inspiration for the gold star used in the brand name was the Jardine Star Brooch, which was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II in 1981 by Lady Jardine (no relation). The bags, distinguished by their lightweight, high-quality leather, come in two sizes, one more spacious to accommodate essentials for a business trip, which harkens back to a beloved satchel Jardine had in her youth. “I had it for about 20 years before it fell apart,” she laughed.
Jardine is still in the first blushes of launching her brand and feels keenly each milestone. The first time she saw the bag featured in a magazine was, of all places, Gentlemen’s Journal, a London publication that does advertise women’s luxury goods. Her bag was depicted underneath a Tiffany necklace.
Seeking celebrity cachet, Jardine approached the management companies of actresses she respected and felt could relate to the brand. “We asked if they their clients would like to receive a Jardine of London bag,” Jardine recalled. “They said yes. We were delighted with that. Naomi Watts and Rosamund Pike were the first two. At this moment, they are somewhere in the world with my bag. We’re looking for that elusive photograph. That will be a serious moment when we see that.”
Jardine looks to add clutch bags to her line. She is also seeking to establish a retail presence. “It’s fine being online, but it’s paramount that people can go somewhere to see the bags,” she said.
What words of advice does Jardine have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Research and more research,” she emphasized. “Make sure there is a market for your goods. You can create your own story and brand, but the product has to be good. Never be frightened to ask people who know more than you do about things; soak it up all the information you can. Read books about your industry and read the business section to find out what’s going on the world. And don’t give up the minute things get difficult. If you are really passionate about what you’re doing and you believe in it, there is always a way forward. The other thing is to surround yourself with positive people. You must always listen to people who have more experience than yourself, but if you have negative people around you, it tends to kill your enthusiasm and spirit.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.