“A Weekend Bag That Comes With a Side of Female Empowerment!” — Condé Nast Traveler
“JEMMA was created to inspire women to redefine life on their own terms. We are redefining what should be a handbag,” says brand founder Joanna Lau and former finance trader on Wall Street. The brand gets its name from the combination of Joanna and her sister’s name Emma for a more personal touch, which is just one of the many things to love about the brand.
All of the handbag styles from JEMMA are designed in NYC and made from the finest Italian textiles, to create a handbag for the modern working woman that will “inspire women to redefine life on their own terms” by redefining the handbags we take into the office and around the city each day. After all both aesthetics and functionality should go hand in hand.
When did you first come up with the idea to create your own handbags?
I started my career in Finance as a trader on Wall Street. While working as a banker, it was bugging me that men had good-looking, functional bags while women simply had handbags that were clearly not catered to the workplace; no attention was paid to the functionality of handbags. My goal, then, was to combine the beautiful designer aesthetic of a woman’s handbag with modern functionality to cater to the needs of the modern working woman, our customer #JEMMAGirl.
Where did the inspiration for the name JEMMA come from?
JEMMA is a combination of my name Joanna and my sister’s name Emma! I wanted to give it a personal touch.
What sets JEMMA apart from other handbag brands on the market today?
The whole premise with JEMMA is not just about our bags, it is about the #JEMMAGirl community. We see ourselves as a fashion utilitarian brand, we are not about trends, we care about the customer and her needs. If she needs a Work Bag, we will make her the best Work 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 deeply 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 #JEMMAGirls. You will notice the attention to detail in all our products, no compromises, ie. you get a designer travel bag that comes with a toiletry bag, hidden ventilated shoe compartment, washable laundry bag, and luggage sleeve at the back that doubles as easy access back pocket!
“This is the stylish bag that every on-the-go woman needs in her life.”— AOL
Your handbags are designed in New York and made from fine Italian textiles, how involved are you in the process of seeing your designs go from prototype to finished product?
I am deeply involved in every aspect of the business especially the production of our bags, I am very particular about the quality and workmanship of all our products and won’t bring anything to market until I am truly satisfied with it.
How would you describe the #JEMMAgirl?
The #JEMMAGirl is someone who is confident of who she is, personifies ambition and the go-getter approach. JEMMA Bags assist her in getting there and making her statement in the process.
Which of the JEMMA handbags is one of your personal favorites?
Tough choice! I currently use the POPPINS Backpack Tote a lot as it’s a great everyday bag, can be dressed up or down, super versatile with the backpack into crossbody functionality. I use it for both work and travel.
What are some of the essentials that you pack in your bag on a daily basis?
My 13” MacBook Pro (can’t do without it!), Phone (can’t live without it!), lip balm, mask, hand sanitizer, house keys (the detachable key strap always ensures I never forget it!), MAGGIE Wallet, sunglasses, hair tie, and headphones!
What to expect from your JEMMA bag…
Out of the four collections (Emma, Birdie, Jackie, Poppins) which collection has been the most popular with your customers?
EMMA & BIRDIE are definitely our core signature collections 🙂
How would you spend the day around New York City (and which neighborhood is your favorite)?
I live and work in Tribeca so I spend most of my time in the area, but my favorite neighborhood has to be the West Village! I am a big fan of the brownstones and some of the best NYC restaurants are there so it’s just a charming fun place to be!
What are your words of advice for women who dream of founding their own brands?
My one piece of advice to entrepreneurship is to be a passionate realist. Love what you do but also be very blunt with yourself about what constitutes success and failure.