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An Interview With JJ Winters

An intervieww with JJ Winters Keila Carmer

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For more than just the last few seasons, Fringe has been a dominant word in our vocabulary and has been lovingly adopted by the fashion community at large. Though it has been trending strong and there is plenty more to come this Fall (cue Isabel Marant), more important is that the choice to adorn yourself in fringe is more of a lifestyle. Like feathers, fringe has a unique ability to express a modern-boho attitude, but looks equally chic and sophisticated. We paired together Fringe & Feathers as our inspiration this week for just this reason. Irrelevant of the season, there is a certain sense of freedom associated with them. According to Keila Carmer who designs for J.J. Winters, fringe makes you feel fearless.

This week we launch with an exclusive interview with Keila to discuss the infamous Fringe handbags that are known as J.J. Winters.

When did J.J. Winters launch?

Keila: We launched in the spring of 2004, and I am happy to say that it has been going strong now for over 7 years!

How are J.J. bags different from all the competing brands in your market?

Keila: J.J. Winters handbags are infused with an eclectic mix of style from bohemian femininity to punk rock to classic elegance. Each season J.J. Winters creates on-trend styles in an assortment of colors and fabrications. What makes J.J. Winters different is that when Joyce Winters created the line back in 2004 she knew that the handbags on the market were either very inexpensive and the price reflected the design and quality, or much too expensive. Having worked in the garment industry for several years Joyce knew she could make high quality handbags that were appropriately priced, and that certainly sets J.J. Winters apart.

What inspires the collection?

Keila: There are many different aspects that inspire our designs. The most important is Joyce Winters - the amazing designer that started the company and designed many of our re-occurring best sellers. Her design always inspires me as I designed with her and watched her design for years. Her use of stylistic elements like fringe and pops of studs are something I always take into consideration when coming up with new designs. Fashion, architecture and photography all inspire my designs, as there are so many ways you can interpret a picture or the structure of a shoe or leather jacket. Sometimes inspiration comes from the leathers themselves, taking into consideration the textures and feel of the skins help to create a good base for design.

What is the overall goal when designing the perfect bag?

Keila: Designing the perfect bag is sometimes difficult to do because you have to consider what the typical customer wants in an everyday bag - something that's easy to carry, but looks great, makes a statement and can last. Another thing to take into consideration is the way the buyers are going to perceive it as well as the price point. You can design the most beautiful bag in the world but if the price is way too high then it's not going to sell well.

What are your top selling handbags this season?

Keila: Fringe, Fringe, Fringe! The smaller to medium sized cross-body Fringe bags are selling like crazy! They are so easy to wear because you can keep both your hands free and the are convenient to use, but always look great on. Also the chain cross-body bags in the crocodile leathers are huge sellers - we can never keep enough in stock.

Who were the first celebrities seen carrying your bags?

Keila: Paris Hilton, Hilary Duff, Tori Spelling and Miley Cyrus were among the first celebrities to be seen accessorizing with J.J. Winters. Today we have everyone from Vanessa Hudgens and Alessandra Ambrosio to Halle Berry carrying our handbags.

How did this recognition affect your business?

Keila: One of our biggest celebrity supporters is Vanessa Hudgens. When Vanessa wore J.J. Winters Fringe Bag and Zipper Bag on multiple occasions we received coverage like crazy in a variety of major magazines. In turn, this made a huge impact on our sales for these specific styles. When a celebrity is seen wearing our bags this boosts the sales in those styles or materials like nothing else. It really is amazing to see a picture of someone carrying your bag one day, and then have 50 orders for that bag come through the next day!

What was the first Fringe bag in the collection?

Keila: The first Fringe bag was style #126 - a great larger sized cross-body messenger with a braided strap and fringe tassel. We did the bag in black leather and Paris Hilton was one of the very first people to rock the bag! We still sell the bag to this day, it has the perfect amount of fringe, not too little and not too much!

What can we expect from J.J. Winters for Fall 2011?

Keila: For Fall 2011 we are still seeing a huge trend with fringe. We are continuing to add to our fringe collection with the expansion of the mini fringe bag with stud accents and big gold clips, to larger styles including the full fringe tote bag with buckle detail. We are also seeing a continuation in suede fabrication. New suede colors for the season include Army Green, Forest Green and Taupe. In addition, we are broadening our fabrications to include metallics and new snake skins that are amazing in quality and design!

Fringe makes you feel ...

Keila: Fearless! Fringe really can be worn with any outfit and always adds a little pop of boho-chic to your style!

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