If you’re looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind holiday gift, I highly recommend Ecogirl Handbags and belts. Each piece is designed by the extremely creative Jennifer Jory. Read on to learn more about her designs and how she’s helping to keep fabric out of our landfills.
Robin: What made you want to get into designing handbags?
Jennifer: I have been fortunate and have had the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places. Over the years I have collected textiles from different parts of the world and really fell in love with beautiful fabrics. At home, I started adding to my collection by searching for treasures at the Alameda flea market and collecting fabric samples and remnants from designers to ensure these beautiful fabrics would not end up in the landfill. I was determined to find ways I could showcase the fabrics and decided to turn them into bags. As a result, the fabrics have a new purpose and these wonderful treasures can be appreciated in daily life.
R: What makes your designs eco-friendly?
J: My designs are eco-friendly because I am repurposing upholstery fabric remnants, samples and discontinued fabric that would be destined for the landfill. I have even used vintage curtains and blankets for many of my designs. I am giving new life to textiles such as the ends of fabric bolts and saving this material from being thrown away and leaching chemicals into the landfill. I also repurpose vintage belts and leather remnants as bag handles and straps. Reuse, reduce and recycle is my motto.
R: Where do you source your material?
J: I source from a wide range of places from upholstery workrooms, interior design stores, interior designers, flea markets and friends and customers who have remnant fabrics. I repurpose everything I can find to rescue quality fabric.
R: What tips do you have for women who want to start their own business?
J: Always start with a business plan. There is an organization called Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center that provides fantastic guidance and courses for any woman starting a business in the Bay Area.
R: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
J: When you are working for yourself, it is easy to get distracted. Plan out your day accounting for every hour to work toward your goals.
R: Where do you find creative and business inspiration?
J: I have three girls who love fashion and they are always giving me ideas on what bags their friends are interested in. When I sell my bags at the Burlingame Farmer’s Market on Sundays, many of the friends and customers that come by talk with me about what they would like to see or need in a handbag. Additionally, the Alameda Flea Market is really inspiring for anyone who is interested in the creative reuse of materials. The fabrics themselves inspire me, such as Suzanis from Uzbekistan, which are beautiful gifts given at weddings. At the flea market, artisans sell fabrics that have an elaborate dying process such as Indigo and Mud Cloth from Africa. Preserving these treasures and keeping fabric out of the landfill is just a small way I can give back.
R: Do you have plans to design other things in the future?
J: This winter I will teach a course in upcycled fashion at Nueva School. So many people and retailers are making decisions to repair, reuse and repurpose clothing because of the condition of our planet and the perils of fast fashion. I am interested in exploring the best ways to transform our wardrobes for years to come.
More About Jennifer Jory
As the founder of Ecogirl, an environmentally friendly handbag business, Jennifer spends her time collecting and rescuing high-end, heritage and vintage fabrics and refashions them into custom bags. In addition to creating and selling sustainable handbags, Jennifer hopes to educate and inspire the next generation to repurpose and reuse textiles. Ecogirl was born out of a passion to preserve the fabric and make one small stand against environmental damage.
Let’s do our part to help save the planet!