Darrah: Why did you start designing?
Jess: I remember loving fashion and accessories at a very young age, and ever since then it has been a source of inspiration. In college I majored in Textiles, which then led me to pursue a business in fashion.
Darrah: What goes into making a handbag?
Jess: It all starts with the inspiration where I’ll do a series of drawings and then pick one design to go with. From there, I create the technical patterns, source materials, while trying to keep the cost in mind. I like to do as much as I can myself to insure that the whole process is very personal and speaks of me. It’s always great to see an initial come to fruition and turn raw materials into a finished product.
Darrah: What's your favorite material to use for handbags? What's your least favorite?
Jess: Typically my favorite material to use is leather. But lately I’ve found some really innovative eco-friendly materials like Cork which I plan to continually explore. I don’t use fur in any of my designs, for various reasons.
Darrah: I noticed you design a lot of clutches. Do you prefer them over bigger handbags?
Jess: I carry a large bag daily as it holds everything that I could possibly need. But I’ve noticed a real interest in smaller bags, so it was important for me to create something small that could accommodate a women’s essentials.
Darrah: What are 5 essentials every woman must have in her purse?
Jess: Lip gloss, sketchbook/notebook, phone with a camera, hair pins, and a piece of jewelry or accessory that can take a look from day to night.
Darrah: Do you think it's okay for men to have "man purses"?
Jess: It definitely depends on the man, and on the purse. The “murse” should definitely suit the person who carries it. If it’s done well, I think it’s okay.
Darrah: What makes your collection standout from the crowd?
Jess: My work really reflects my textile background in the pairing of materials and textures. I like to have things custom died, embossed, and really personalize my materials. I also like to emphasize the interior where I always use colors and prints that compliment the exterior. To me, it’s important that the inside of the bag be as beautiful as the outside.
Darrah: How many handbags, purses, clutches, etc do you have in your closet right now?
Jess: I can’t really put a number on that. But I will say that since I’ve started my own line, I have brought a lot of bags to consignment stores -- except for a few favorites.
Darrah: How does your collection merge fashion and art?
Jess: My collection really reflects my surroundings. I’m intrigued by architecture, travel, and nature while I also like drawing inspiration for color by the use of it in paintings. It’s a mix of all these things plus the beautiful craftsmanship, which is an art form in itself.
Darrah: Do you think a woman should have a token purse she wears every day or have a new one for each outfit?
Jess: I think it’s great for women to buy versatile bags, so they could in fact go with every outfit. But I like when accessories also change, compliment an outfit, and create an entirely new look.
Darrah: What's your opinion on fanny packs?
Jess: It’s hard to take them seriously. I like them in theory.
Darrah: Where do you see the fashion industry going?
Jess: Well you can see that the industry has been seriously been affected by the appeal of “going green” and I think it’s great. I’m sure it will continue and that we will be amazed by the type of things that can be made by eco-friendly materials.
Darrah: Who is your favorite handbag designer?
Jess: It’s hard to just choose one. I’ve always admired the work at Valentino and Bottega Veneta.
Darrah: What's your next step?
Jess: I will continue to build on what I have established thus far and create new designs. Someday I hope to have my brand expand to include shoes, luggage, men’s leather goods, and apparel. I’m always thinking about new ideas and what to do next. But for now, it’s one thing at a time.
If you'd like to see more, please visit her website at JessRizzuti.com.