Jacki Easlick has found her bag, albeit, not her first, and clearly, not her last from the looks of her expanding line. She traded in the world of designing for household name brands for a chance to grow an emerging one–her own. With an impressive, lengthy resume, serving as Designer Director for both Kenneth Cole and Vera Bradley and working for Target, Macy’s, and Victoria’s Secret (to name just a few), Easlick embarked on a new path that would combine her big-brand previous experience with that of personal standards and a higher purpose. While helping women feel good outwardly with a sweet cobra cross-body bag, she aids in providing others with the basics…as in, a roof over a homeless child’s head and physical security. Giving back through her own line, has allowed her to finally combine her passion with com-passion. Something that’s priceless for her.
I’m rather sick of people (ab)using the tired excuse, “In this economy,” but Easlick seems to harness it as her driving force rather than allow it to hinder her business. Instead of making cuts in spending, Jacki Easlick forges ahead with affordable prices (starting at under $200) and supreme craftsmanship without sacrificing her charitable collaborations.
From high quality leather totes with detachable pouches to be worn as mini shoulder bags, to 18kt gold cuffs with Brazilian gemstones, Easlick delivers calculated pieces that showcase her devotion to detail and function. Over a cup of coffee, I chatted casually with Jacki Easlick to find out more about her line, her mission, and her thoughts right now.
I’m sure that I know the answer to this, but, favorite accessory?
That’s easy-handbags. I think it’s the favorite accessory for a lot of women. I mean, all of your intimate belongings go into it. It’s the secret that men…men do not touch handbags. You can’t go into a woman’s purse. It’s sacred.
I’d agree with that. Handbags seem to represent many things to so many different people. They’re iconic almost. So, now that you’ve created your own line’s staples, What are you currently dabbling in? What can we be looking forward to from your line?
3 years ago, in May 2011 I came out with my original four bags. The other four came out the following fall. And now, I’m actually working on about 40 new styles. This includes wallets and small coin purses, cell phone cases. I’m also working on a travel line–weekender bags, yoga bags. I believe in going slowly. And, as a small business, it makes more sense. I can then see how people are responding and what they’re liking, disliking, and wanting more of.
How do you stay inspired on a daily basis?
For me, personally, it comes down to curiosity and creativity. My nature, I’m a very curious person, to see how things are made, the colors. Creativity is apart of that. I thrive in that process, designing something new, something that hasn’t been done before.
What was a pivotal achievement in your life, so far?
I’ve been a designer for over twenty years. My first job out of college, I was a packaging designer for Gerber baby food. Twenty years ago, Gerber asked me to think about a line for toddlers, designing toddler food. I came up with this idea of Gerber Graduates. I was 23 years old, and I would fly to companies like Keebler. I was flying on the corporate jet. People were asking for my autograph. Working at Gerber, it had such a positive influence on me and how I came to this. I eventually left and worked for Kenneth Cole and then Vera Bradley, but that was, like, my moment. It was huge, and Gerber Graduates still continues on today.
“If I wasn’t designing, I would…”
I would become a doctor. I really like helping people, and as a designer, you’re helping someone on the outside.”
Now, I understand that you actually are already helping people with your designs with partnering with charities. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
I’ve partnered with a company that partners with all kinds of charities…it can be anything from breast cancer, the American cancer society. It’s a good opportunity, and right now, we’re focusing on partnering with Go Orphan (The Global Orphan Project). Go Orphan basically builds homes for orphans in impoverished countries. It’s really great.
What made you decide to give back?
When I worked for Vera Bradley, I had to travel a lot to Asia. I was on a three-week trip–in Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong–trains, flights. I landed in intensive care. I was there for a week. I made a promise that if I survived, I was not going to continue designing or working the same way I was before. I was going to design products that targeted helping other people. That was my commitment.
I’m assuming that’s when you decided to branch off on your own. When and how did your commitment begin translating into your own line?
I was recovering, I had no full-time job, and I couldn’t. I was stressed. It was a really bad situation. I would spend my afternoon sketching. I had a tablet, and I would just start going. After I was healed and recovered, I took my sketches to a factory in Manhattan. I remember when I picked up my first prototype. Even though it was just one handbag, it was so much more. It was so much bigger. It represented the healing process for me.
What was the reaction to seeing your first design come to life?
Well, I took it home, and I had it out when my husband came home from work. It was so funny. He assumed I’d gone shopping when I asked him what he thought of it. My husband said, ” What are you doing buying expensive bags?!” He was so confused. I responded, “This is my design- my name is on it.” He was like, “Wow, you’re really going for it.” And, I did. I was really going for it, (she laughs). He kept saying how “nice” it looked and how high the quality was. That’s what I needed to hear. That’s what I’d wanted; something of high quality to offer at an affordable price point.
Favorite item from your own line?
The satchel. It was my first baby, and although I love every other one just as children, that one is special. That’s my best seller as well. So, I’m partial.
Where do you see your brand in five years?
I love leather gloves. I love sunglasses. Whether or not, I will actually go down that path, I’m not sure. I was taught by this woman who was a buyer at Bloomingdale’s, that the way that Italy manufactures gloves is different than any other country. They get the curve of a woman’s hand much better than any other. It’s sophisticated and meticulous. How interesting is that? Those are the details I’m interested in. So, I’d only want to do it if I could do it right.
But, I’ve learned what customers gravitate towards. I design what I like. I break it down in my mind to different, wearable events. If a woman is going to work, she’ll wear this or this or this. If she’s getting dressed up, I break it down into different behavior patterns. I’ve had requests for travels bags, so that’s what I’ve been working on. It’s an intuitive thing. I’ve worked in the industry for so long. I’m gradually rounding out the collection.
Trend you would like to see die?
Bright paisley, it’s so 90s.
What motivates you?
I’ve learned what customers gravitate towards. I design what I like. I break it down in my mind to different, wearable events. If a woman is going to work, she’ll wear this or this or this. If she’s getting dressed up, I break it down into different behavior patterns. I’ve had requests for travels bags, so that’s what I’ve been working on. It’s an intuitive thing. I’ve worked in the industry for so long. I’m gradually rounding out the collection.
For the last four years, I’ve been a speaker for Cooper Hewett (Smithsonian- National Design Fair), hosted by Tim Gunn. I speak about handbags. I’m always speaking to young adults and students. Every year, there are a few students who stand up and tell me, “I want to be a designer, but I don’t know how to sketch.” Look, I couldn’t sketch either. It took years and years. It’s all about tenacity. What you don’t know, you learn. What you aren’t good at, you practice.
What’s one of your, pet peeves, if any, with the fashion industry as a whole?
There’s a lot of dishonesty in the industry. It’s nearly impossible for young designers to go out on their own and launch their own brand. Because of the way the industry is set up, the larger department stores want the companies with a larger backing and a larger amount of money. The magazines gravitate toward larger companies and these brands. The industry doesn’t foster growth to younger, start-up companies. So many “designers” are just really, really good at branding. When people buy a _________ or a ________, they believe they are buying their original designs.
They’re like frontmen, right? With other people working and designing in the background?
Yes, so many of these brands and celebrities are not designers. They’re not sketching alone at home. They’re successful, though, in terms of marketing. The bottom line is making money.
The way Jacki Easlick conducts her handbag and more-recent jewelry line, proves that it’s not another “good girl act.” The notion of niceness still exists in the notorious high school of fashion design industry. I’ll be sitting at her cafeteria table.
Check her collection out at www.JackiEaslick.com