With a lengthy history in the Australian fashion industry, all it took was a nudge from a colleague who is now her business partner, and a fair amount of courage, for Jennine Lewis to launch her own accessories brand and online store.
Tell me a bit about your background? I did Fashion Technology at Randwick Tech about a million years ago. I worked in a lot of corporate roles, owned some shoe boutiques, and was the Australian distributor for a couple of clothing ranges out of Miami and LA. After spending time developing shoes and bags for other companies, a timely call from a former colleague prompted me to start Clutch Handbags Australia.
What prompted you to start your own online store? After developing some products for major retail chains, we thought, why not do this for ourselves? Online is where people love to browse and shop! We have a wholesale business which runs side by side with the online business and we do stock boutiques. Different styles are available online to the wholesale side of the business. We also felt there was a place in the market for a high quality non-leather handbag range.
Where do you source/where do you find inspiration for your collection? We source from all the local markets; China, India, Philippines, and further afield. I want to look at Turkey and Portugal for leather next season. For inspiration, along with the major trend reports released each season, you can’t go past watching what people on the street are wearing and carrying. Getting overseas to a couple of times a year to just look in the shops, is a must.
What do you look for when choosing/designing pieces for your collection? Different material finishes and new media to work with. PU (synthetic leather) has come a long way in recent years and is not like the old hard “plastic” feeling material that it used to be. Soft suede, nubucks, washed finishes and beautifully embossed designs are all available now. This “vegan leather” market is growing and we want to explore this. We look at different metals and chain shapes for shoulder straps and every season, new shapes and silhouettes. And good quality hardware and zippers is a must.
Which are your favourite pieces in the collection? I’ve always loved hand sewing, so the hand beaded & embroidered pieces are my favourites.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business? Timely delivery. Getting the timing right for samples and stock is essential and navigating the national holidays of up to five or six countries when you are arranging shipping & production to deadlines can be challenging! You have to stay on top of it. And finding the right sales team to represent the brand; they have to be as passionate about the product as we are.