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When The Local first encountered handbag designer and fashion blogger Jack Germain, she was rushing to get a manicure in preparation for her 25th birthday party. It was one of the season’s first truly autumn days, and Ms. Germain, an Alphabet City resident, was outfitted accordingly — dressed in leggings, a slouchy green army jacket, and Victorian lace-up boots.
But what caused a stir among readers of The Local was her worn leather shoulder bag covered with muted gold studs, one of her own designs. Many of you wanted to know more about Ms. Germain, a raspy-voiced south Florida native who moved to New York five years ago in the hopes of making a name for herself in the fashion industry. We recently caught up with Ms. Germain again to talk about her upcoming spring collection, future goals and New Year’s resolutions.
How did you get into handbag designing?
When I was younger I wanted to design evening gowns for the Oscars, and as I got older I wanted to do clothes, then I wanted to do shoes, then handbags were just easiest to make. You could make a handbag out of your apartment. And the more I began to study up on it and get into bags themselves, I started to see this underlying theme with the woman’s handbag — that really it’s one of the most true reflections of who a woman actually is. It’s a reflection not only of the style of this woman but where this woman’s been. People change shoes, people change even sunglasses, but a bag is like a woman’s sidekick. My whole theme is that your bag lives the life that you live.
Until recently you’ve done all of your designing and production out of your apartment. What has it been like living and working within the same space?
I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I used to live in a studio and sleep with my sewing machine. I was making the bags by hand back then. It was rough! When you sleep with your work your mind doesn’t stop, you know? You go to bed essentially closing your eyes in front of your work. But now that my stuff is being produced at a factory in Chelsea, I do get to leave my home office and go to my factory. As I said, it has its own benefits — you’re your own boss, you live in your workplace, it’s pretty convenient getting to work every morning. It saves a good subway ride.
On your website you say that your label is based on the idea of contradiction — hard/soft, feminine/masculine — what about that concept is attractive to you as a designer?
I just love seeing juxtaposition against things. My personal style is half-girly, half-edgy. And I’ve always dressed like this my entire life, and I’ve reflected that through my bags. I like playing around with irony and contradiction.
Tell us about your upcoming Spring/Summer 2011 line—how does it depart from what you’ve done in the past?
I was really inspired by the beach, which is ironic because I’m not a beachgoer — I hate sand! But as an art form the beach is incredible. So I went there and took a lot of inspiration from the waves, and the undular motions of just how everything moves there. So I played that up a little bit in the bags. The colors are very pale and muted, but much brighter than anything I’ve ever done. And the main theme of being influenced by nature, I obviously wasn’t fully comfortable just leaving it at that, so my other main inspiration is bullet holes. In a way, it kind of reflects the beauty of nature, and the destruction of it at the same time.
Where can we buy your stuff?
I’ve literally just started pitching to stores, so they’re not in any stores yet. My spring collection will be my first collection that’s really going to go on sale. But as of right now you can’t get them anywhere — which my friend jokes is really brilliant because I’ve been doing this for a while and I feel like the demand is getting bigger and bigger because I make these bags but then I’m like, ‘Oh but you can’t have them!”
Last year on your blog, Wasted Talent, you posted a series of New Year’s resolutions for 2010—many of them having to do with your business. You wrote: “Career: I will have one” and “I refuse to be a 25-year-old unfamous designer.” Do you feel like you’re any closer to realizing those goals?
I mean it’s been a really crazy year in the best way possible. I’m obviously not a famous designer, but a lot of those resolutions were achieved. I really started my company. It was like O.K., you’re not getting a job, you’re not going to have a lot of money, you’re probably not going to have a boyfriend for a couple of years, but that’s O.K. That’s not the goal — the goal is to create a business, create a lifestyle, create a brand that I can live by for — knock on wood — forever.