Mary Jardine’s luxury leather handbags are all made in Britain
The founder of the Jardine of London brand is one of the few producing finely crafted ranges working with a UK factory and primarily local tanneries.
Her clientele are professionals and women with a sense of occasion, be they 25 or 85, drawn to chic arm candy with a touch of classic heritage.
It’s an upmarket blend that has won over celebrities such as Emma Watson, Naomie Harris and most recently Dame Judi Dench whose name graces Jardine’s latest design, a versatile, butter soft clutch – the Judi.
I was compelled to have my products made in Britain
Now Jardine is embarking on a collaboration featuring her accessories with fabulous frock specialist Alie Street, an established label made in England and founded by entrepreneur Tiffany London.
“Our businesses share a natural synergy and common passions,” says Jardine, whose own operation is e-commerce, but with a strong personal dimension at its core.
“This means a potential or existing customer can pick up the phone and actually speak or email me,” she explains. “I can advise so they get it right first time and then return. It’s the nearest thing to having an actual shop.”
Most popular among the latest collection are the Judi (£295) and the classy Queen (from £595), the label’s hard-wearing and overall best seller that with time develops an alluring soft sheen or patina.
Jardine’s latest design, a versatile, butter soft clutch is called ‘the Judi’
Designing bags for discerning middle Britain and wanting to manufacture on home soil proved to be the easy task however Jardine discovered when she set up a couple of years ago.
Her 50th birthday was looming and keen for a new challenge she wasn’t a newbie either having previously run her own modelling agency and her husband, businessman John, was there to give a hand.
But a baptism of fire awaited her.
“I soon realised after trying saddle makers that handbags require more finesse and no one seemed willing to share contacts,” she says.
“Everyone said go overseas, it’s cheaper and easier. But I was compelled to have my products made in Britain. I didn’t want to have to fly somewhere to see my bags being made.”
A small workshop did make her first good batch, “but the unit cost was higher than the retail price,” she says.
Finally it was Kate Hills, leader of pioneering trade body Make It British, who linked her up with the factory she is with today.
“It was what I desperately needed,” she says. “After five workshops and 10 prototypes I’m with the right one.
The Queen is the label’s hard-wearing and overall best seller
“The quality of the leather and goat skin I use is superb. I know that for a fact as I accidentally spilt strong coffee on a Queen, but there wasn’t a mark afterwards.
“Everything is coming together and I see this Christmas as really our first trading test and opportunity.”
Jardine is right on trend too with her cool clutches, watch any romcom and the hen dos and weddings scenes invariably have a female clasping one.
And it was being invited to a wedding herself and searching for an outfit that led her to Alie Street where she bought a dress, the smart people there recognised her name and the contact began.
Commenting on how it unfolded, Tiffany London explains:
“We are extremely proud to design and produce all of our Alie Street dresses in Britain, and exhibiting in the brand hall at the Meet the Manufacturer event earlier this year was the perfect forum for us, enabling us to form valuable links with businesses such as Jardine of London.
“This company felt like a natural fit for us, their beautiful classic British made handbags complementing our soft tailored day and evening dresses perfectly. We hope that our recent collaboration is just the beginning as our passion for British manufacturing doesn’t stop with our own womenswear labels, we strive to support other British made brands with the same hallmark of quality craftsmanship.”
The quality of the leather and goat skin is superb
As well as a spell in department store Fenwick where Jardine hopes to return at some point, the bags are featuring too on independent fashion platforms such as Wolf & Badger.
Growth is forecast to double and take company turnover to £100,000 next year.
With the manufacturing now sorted, the product choice is blossoming and also includes pouches and scented hand-poured candles, that should serve as an entrée into the US market.
Self-funded investment so far has taken £50,000, and Jardine is keen to produce man bags too but she isn’t allowing herself to get carried away, so this plan as well as exporting to Asia can only happen with more external backing.
“My ideal investor,” she says, “is an expert at number crunching and will be happy to roll up their sleeves and join in. If there is someone who thinks they fit the bill, can they please call.”