This week I’m so excited to welcome onto the blog, Joanna Maxham, the bag designer whose brand has been listed in Vogue UK’s Top 100 Best Bags – fab accolade indeed! Since the brand has been launched, in 2011, the bags have been sold online internationally as well as in shops all over the USA and in Colombia, Japan, Poland and Switzerland. A big warm welcome to you Joanna….
Hello – my name is Joanna, I am a hard working mom, who runs her own business and who has a huge handbag problem!
Launching Joanna Maxham, the brand, in 2011,what inspired you to change career direction from being a fast paced international corporate person to becoming a fabulous handbag designer?
Growing up I was creative, but chose a business career a bit out of curiosity and a bit out of economic reasons. When my girls were born, I took some time off and decided to explore other options. During that time we lived in Europe, and I met some wonderful artists, designers and fashion professionals and immediately felt comfortable in their world. After I met Marco – my original Italian manufacturer – I knew that handbags were my destiny.
The brand infuses luxury into everyday functionality, so when choosing designs/styles/colors for your bags, do you go by popular styles, customer requests, fashion trends, your own tastes/needs or bits of all those?
My goal is to design bags that look fresh, but at the same time can be considered investment pieces and are very usable. In my work I like to “quote” trends but always think of the woman who will carry the bag and her everyday life. I love to hear feedback from my customers, and am usually pretty good at implementing it.
Your bags are made from leather sourced from the Italian region of Santa Croce and you work with a small atelier with over 35 years experience in your native Poland. How important was it to you that you worked alongside European artisans to hone your design and construction skills as well as finding the right atelier to help develop your collection?
I learned everything about handbags “on the job” – from design, through construction all the way to selection of materials. It was very important for me to learn from the best artisans, with years of experience (and generations to back it up). I was lucky to meet such people.
Congratulations on appearing in Vogue UK’s Top 100 Best Bags list! Your bags are sold through your online site as well as several shops in the USA and in Colombia, Japan, Poland & Switzerland. To date, what has been your most popular bag ordered from your online site?
Thank you! We have just recently re-launched the website with e-commerce capability so we do not have a lot of history. But I have been working for over 2 years with a few online retail partners. The top selling bag is definitely the Nite Cap in Raffia, followed by the Castaway and the Bootcamp.
What bags seem to be more popular in the stores? Have you noticed any differences between tastes in handbags or colors in USA compared with your customers in the UK, Colombia, Japan, Poland and Switzerland?
I think than on average, the stores select similar merchandise to what sells online. I did not notice many geographic differences quite yet, although Americans may be a bit more willing to experiment with color than Europeans and my Japan retailer is the first to adopt original shapes and color combinations.
My favourite bag from your latest collection is the “Nite Cap” khaki raffia clutch bag – I love textures and khaki is one of my favourite colours. Out of all the items on your website,what is or has been your favourite?
It is very hard for me to tell which product is my favorite – they are all my babies ;-). But this season I carry the Beachcomber Tote in Raffia a lot. I also own a Castaway in each color version it ever existed. Simply love that bag.
If you had the chance to design a handbag for any famous lady in the world (living or dead) who would you like to see flaunting your handbag?
If I had to chose just one – it would have to be Cate Blanchet. She is beautiful, elegant, strong and smart. But there are many other inspiring women who embody the Joanna Maxham style and whom I would love to count among customers.
I am always looking for new stores to carry my line and I hope that we are just at the beginning of the adventure.
You’ve already cited Manhattan as a source of inspiration, are there any other locations that have also given you inspiration? Are there any cities/locations/countries you wouldn’t mind visiting for inspiration for future ranges?
I lived in Paris for over 5 years of my life, and would go back in a heartbeat. For me the French style is exactly what my brand is all about – the everyday chic. Parisians are always dressed appropriate to the situation, and sometimes it means simple blue jeans, t-shirt…and maybe a scarf.
I usually wear oversized t-shirts or tunics, skinny jeans or black leggings and a statement necklace or cuff. Of course – I never leave the house without a Joanna Maxham handbag.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I am a huge fan of modern European brands – such as Acne Studios and the super affordable COS (www.costores.com) and love the fact that they recently finally came to the US. I also like to follow the selection on Avenue32, Farfetch and Bird.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I think it is high time I get a good pair of leather leggings for Fall14. I have been dreaming about them for a couple of years now, and never could justify the cost. It is clear now, that this trend is not going away anytime soon. I am also dreaming about Altuzarra’s deep navy wrap around jacket from Fall14 collection.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots! I live in boots from September…until it is time to switch to sandals. They go much better with my lifestyle and everyday uniform than anything else.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Joanna Maxham
Twitter and Instagram: @joannamaxham
Yay – you’re another boot girl – I love my boots too! Thank you for chatting to us about your gorgeous bags! So readers, which bag has captured your heart?
Photo Credits: All photographs have been published with kind permission from Joanna Maxham.