Introducing J E M M A, a handbag brand crafted for the modern working woman. Founded by Joanna Lau, J E M M A seeks to bring functionality and style to women’s handbags. We sit down with Joanna to learn more about the origins of the brand, and her process of creativity.
Tell us about your background; what inspired J E M M A’s inception: I am originally from Singapore and graduated from NYU Stern with a degree in Finance & Statistics. My only formal training in fashion was a three-month Fundamentals of Fashion Design course at Parsons, where they focused on making clothing. I gained much of my sketching skills from this course and during the school year, I interned at Tommy Hilfiger to learn more about the fashion industry. After graduation, I went on to work as an Emerging Markets Trader in New York. While in banking, it was bugging me that men had beautiful and functional work bags while women simply had handbags that were clearly not catered to the workplace; no attention was paid to the functionality of women’s handbags. My goal, then, was to combine the beautiful designer aesthetic of handbags with modern functionality and build a brand around the JEMMAGirl.
Describe your design and production process; what inspires you: The whole premise with J E M M A is not just about our bags, it is about the JEMMAGirl. We see ourselves as a fashion utilitarian brand, we are not about trends, we are about the customer and her needs. If she needs a gym bag, we will make her the best gym bag she will ever find. With all of our bags, there is a purpose —there is a reason for existing. As the designer myself, I am all eyes on what women are doing with the bags they are carrying daily. I creepily observe and question the minute details so I can really hone in on what I should be doing for our next collection. I personally review all feedback that comes to us so that I can include them and make better and better products for our customers, the JEMMAGirl.
Who is the J E M M A woman you are designing for: She is fashion-forward and organized, while personifying ambition and the go-getter approach.
Describe the versatility of your line and various collections: We see ourselves as a fashion utilitarian brand. We are not about trends, we are about the customer and her needs, and all our bags are designed around those specific needs.
Your BIRDIE 43 bag was named Best Weekender Bag by Travel + Leisure; is there another standout piece your especially excited about currently: The EMMA Traveler 39 is definitely a standout piece, for sure. It is highly functional for work and business travel with the many pockets, suitcase sleeve, and removable center pocket that doubles as a crossbody/clutch.
Your go-to beauty product: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer (that’s all I use everyday!)
Coffee or tea: Definitely tea!
Night in or out: Night out, I love hanging out with friends and family at a cool spot!
Favorite hotel: The Cloister at Sea Island.
On your nightstand: A good book, always.