A woman with bags of style
PUBLISHED: 16:37 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:37 17 March 2014
Some of Suffolk's best dressed and most discerning women are these days sporting handbags created by designer Jane Goodchild at her Tuddenham headquarters. Sheline Clarke went to meet her
Jane Goodchild’s work experience record reads like a who’s who of the fashion world.
After graduating with a Fashion and Textiles degree from Ravensbourne College, Jane was snapped up by Calvin Klein and shipped off to New York for a five-year stint designing clothes, shoes and handbags, discovering that the latter was where her real passion lie.
Back in the UK she found opportunities as a freelance accessories designer working with a range of top companies, among them Jimmy Choo, Notting Hill Design, Julien Macdonald and Loewe in Madrid, as well as High Street favourites Next and French Connection.
So it was with considerable experience of her trade that she launched her own company two years ago designing a range of bags including her trademark tote, clutches and cosmetics purses, using the finest materials and artisan manufacturers.
“Working in the States was brilliant,” said Jane. “I was 25 at the time and it was my dream job really, but I was a bit homesick and wanted to come back to the UK. Freelancing gave me the chance to work with some really lovely companies and I learnt an awful lot but when the recession came, I discovered that freelance designers are quite disposable and I found I was the first to go.
“I was a bit out on a limb so I took a year off and thought about whether to retrain and do something else or whether to try and put all of this experience into something for myself and in the end I took the leap of faith. It’s been a learning curve but I absolutely love it, I love doing my own thing and having the freedom to do what I want, it’s just great.”
Jane freely admits she perhaps underestimated what is involved in launching and running a business.
“I thought I would be sitting drawing pretty pictures of handbags and it was all going to be fluffy and lovely,” she laughs, “but that’s just a tiny bit of what I do – I sometimes come in at weekends to do that because there just isn’t time in the week.
“You have to wear a lot of hats, and that’s what I wasn’t prepared for, but I still love my job. It’s exactly what I want to so and that’s what keeps me going.”
In launching her company, Jane knew she wanted her products to be made of the finest Italian leather and was able to use her industry contacts to find a family run factory in Portugal who were happy to make her bags in the small quantities she requires. Only about 20 or 30 bags are made to each design, which means she can constantly refresh the collection and her customers can feel that when they invest in a Jane Goodchild that they are not only buying quality but a level of exclusivity.
Jane says she has gone for the middle ground, price-wise, with her bags. Average prices start at £60 for a make up bag and peak at around £350 for a large tote.
“The high street is flooded, and at the top end prices have gone through the roof so I think my bags sit nicely in the middle. I think a lot of women will pay up to about £400 but not £1,000, that’s hard to justify. So I was trying to create something in the middle, really good quality and individual that fitted the market. We launched in a recession and yet people are still spending and I think people like treats, a bag or a new pair of shoes, people find the money and they will last a lifetime. Well, at least until the new collection,” she jokes.
Jane’s route to market is a combination of online sales, through independent boutiques both here in Suffolk and further afield and shopping events.
“It is a tactile product and people like to touch and feel the leather,” said Jane, who has named each bag after a Hollywood star, Hepburn, Garbo and Mansfield among them, “so the boutiques are great. The shopping events and fairs are also good; it is lovely to make a connection with people, hard work but enjoyable.
“Social media is important and I’d like to get into more boutiques. It is tough out there but the latest collection has been really popular and people are starting to know about me and the brand. My friend rang me the other day because someone had stopped her and asked if her bag was a Jane Goodchild, which was lovely.”