Bag designer Jennifer Hamley on going from networking to New York

Mini KT Pictures: Laura Power
Mini KT Pictures: Laura Power

Sometimes in life things are just meant to be.

For Jennifer Hamley if she hadn’t attended a particular networking event she may never have started her luxury accessories brand.

Jennifer Pictures: Laura Power

Jennifer Pictures: Laura Power

“The KT bag is named after the woman I met at the networking event,” explained Jennifer.

“I went to it and got talking to someone and said that I wanted a bag business but wanted to continue with the one I was doing to fund it.

“She just told me I was being crazy and I should do what I loved, so I did.”

Jennifer studied 3D design at university in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, after graduating she went travelling and worked at ski and summer resorts.

Sakura bag Pictures: Laura Power

Sakura bag Pictures: Laura Power

“No one tells you when you leave university about how to get a job or what to do,” she said.

“I was working in a bar in Vancouver and started making hair pieces and people started asking where they were from so I started to sell them and it grew and grew. Then I started looking at the bags and it jarred a bit with the brand.”

In 2015 she followed the advice from the woman at the networking event and studied handbag design at the London College of Fashion.

“I then entered a sketch in the Independent Handbag Designer Awards,” she said.

KT Pictures: Laura Power

KT Pictures: Laura Power

“I spoke to customers about what they wanted and designed a work bag with as many elements as I could.

“And it won two awards, and then the competition started to take pre-orders which I then had to fulfil.

“It was a steep learning curve I had to find the money to fund the production costs.

“I wanted to do orders of like 30 to 50 bags I had to order 300. It was a learning curve but if I didn’t have to do it I wouldn’t have learnt how to, it really throws you in and you just have to get on with it.”

Three years on and Jennifer has won again at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards heading to New York for the ceremony.

This year she entered a sketch into the yoga bags section working on the same premise of her KT work bag that is has different pockets for all the things you need to take.

“I didn’t want a bag that was just for a mat but for all your yoga bits,” she said.

“It is made from cork so is breathable, natural and works well with sweaty items.

“Taja Coconut Water Pure was the sponsor and they are going to use the bag as part of their launch in December which is really cool with a run of about 500.”

Jennifer’s range includes the mini KT, model KT, Sakura bag and purse in a number of colourways, and she has plans to launch more collections at the end of the year and is working on the idea of a KT backpack.

The design process starts with an initial sketch, this is made into a sample which is tried and tested and any tweaks are ironed out.

“We usually have about four or five samples,” said Jennifer. “Then you get a production sample which is pretty much what the bag will be, that can take about 18 months, so more than the three I had with my first bag.”

Jennifer also enjoys is seeing people with her bags.

“I was at another networking event and the person that invited me I knew had my bag but two other people also had it. It is mind blowing to see people with the bags and see what colours they have picked.”

With new collections in the pipeline Jennifer is also looking for investors to take the brand further.

Although it is clear that bags are Jennifer’s passion who knows where she would be now if she hadn’t been to that networking event.

To view Jennifer's designs, visit jenniferhamley.com

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