Jamie Lewis, founder of JLEW Bags (www.jlewbags.rocks) discusses the inspiration behind the fashion line, the importance of local manufacturing, and her passion for boxing in this week’s My Side of the Dot™.
Where are you based?
We are based in New York City; we manufacture the bags in Brooklyn and sell out of Manhattan and online at www.JLEWbags.com.
When and how was JLEW founded?
We launched our website in April of this year. I didn’t wake up one day and say I have this great idea and want to start a company. It just kind of happened. Like many start-ups, we identified a gap in the market and pursued it. I couldn’t find a bag fashionable or functional enough to get me through my daily life so I decided to create it. When I came up with something I thought others might like too, I just put one step in front of the other down this path and eventually it lead to starting JLEW.
How did you choose the name JLEW?
When I started the company I had another job so I didn’t want to use my full name a la Tory Burch or Kate Spade. I actually tried to trademark my first and middle name, Jamie Lynn, but believe it or not that was already owned by Floyd Mayweather.
What did you do professionally before starting JLEW?
I was an investment banker with Deutsche Bank for eight years advising aerospace and defense companies and then private equity clients before moving over to the hedge fund business in 2006. I’ve held a variety of roles within investment management ranging from investment research to marketing to investor relations.
What is your goal for JLEW?
JLEW won’t be limited to selling big bags or growing rapidly just for the sake of going public. We are building a community of strong, healthy women. Bags serve as an assistant of sorts to help them stay organized along their path to success. We champion #GirlsWithGuts and as our community grows, so will the scope of our business. We just introduced jewelry and can see a number of different paths JLEW could take already in 2017.
When did you become interested in boxing? Why is it important to you?
I started boxing about 10 years ago for fitness and the more I learned, struggled, and improved, the more passionate I became about it. I’m not naturally gifted in boxing. It’s scary, it’s hard, it takes discipline and dedication. Respect isn’t handed out haphazardly, it’s earned. I’ve met some of the most amazing people through boxing—there’s a sense of comradery and respect among those who get in the ring. I’ve grown stronger not only physically but also mentally through boxing. It’s incredibly raw, real, and humbling. All of the boxing sayings really ring true in business specifically but life generally—“everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face;” “fall down seven times, get up eight.” You learn how to remain flexible, pivot, take a punch and counterpunch, lose but not get defeated. There’s no checking your cellphone or thinking about anything other than boxing when you enter that gym; it’s an incredible escape.
Why is local manufacturing such an important part of your brand?
I’m a studier, an analyzer, a researcher. I’m always watching, listening, reading, and trying to solve problems. When it came time to pick a manufacturer I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t appreciate fully how drastic the impact was to skilled craftsmen from the offshoring of manufacturing that took place over the past few decades. As I dug in and explored manufacturing in Asia versus the United States and began to see how impacted people’s businesses and lives were from this shift, I didn’t even think twice; I set out to invest in local manufacturing. Believe me it IS an investment, as the labor cost is 10x that of manufacturing abroad. That said, I appreciate the skill involved in making our bags—the quality of our product is exceptional and we don’t want to compromise on that simply for the sake of profitability. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, really. I’m also incredibly impatient and curious; I like to see the process of our bags being made, love that we can offer bespoke product and turn around production faster than most of our competitors.
The fashion industry is often criticized for making women feel inadequate, but your brand is clearly taking a stance for empowerment. Why is that important to you?
My mother gets credit for this—she definitely instilled a focus on intelligence over beauty as a priority from an early age. Growing up I had very limited exposure to TV or magazines (again intentionally thanks to Mom) so when I got to college and lived in a sorority house with 90 women I saw firsthand the negative impacts false impressions can have on women. I hated seeing these women comparing themselves to airbrushed photos and one another, focusing on their weaknesses rather than their strengths. That was 20 years ago and with social media today I fear these problems have been exacerbated. With dogmatic intention, we try to showcase strong women, both inside and out, not solely beauty for the sake of beauty. We like to keep it light and fun and not take ourselves too seriously—raw and real works for us much better than retouched and fake.
How did you hear about .ROCKS? What prompted you to register a .ROCKS domain and use it as a redirect to your website?
Honestly, I was on vacation in Greece with some friends who are way more savvy than I am when it comes to technology and I was peppering them with all kinds of questions. We were brainstorming about “cool” ideas online and one of them asked if I had heard about .ROCKS yet. The minute I learned, I bought it. Why you ask? Follow @JLEWbags on Instagram and stay tuned! We’re planning an event for 2017 that’s going to ROCK! We aim to use that domain to promote it in a very unconventional way.
Is there anything you’d like to leave readers with?
We’re a brand new startup and are trying to get the word out—if you like what you see, please follow us on social media and tell your friends.
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