DOMINIQUE HUGHES AND REBECCA DA SILVA LIMA
Stylish, versatile and classic – we can’t get enough of luxury accessory brand Jem + Bea.
Launched in 2015 by friends, Dominique and Rebecca, the brand has successfully created lines of modern and beautifully-made changing bags and accessories that are not just covetable, but functional and practical. We caught up with the duo to talk about all things bags, Jem + Bea, and what inspires them. Read our interview below.
The company was named after two of our children, Jemima and Beatrice. They are the same age and great little buddies.
HOW DID JEM + BEA FIRST COME TO LIFE?
D: Jem + Bea came about one evening in London on a night out with our group of friends from school. We’ve all know each other since we were 11! I’d sat on the idea for a few years and was at a point in my life where I wanted to make changes. That night, I spoke to Rebecca (whose background is accessory design) about the idea of creating a luxury brand that made changing bags that looked like the designer handbags that we both loved. I wanted her help with the designs. To my delight, Rebecca was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was. We met up again over coffee a week later and, that day, we became business partners and Jem + Bea was born!
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME AND WHAT IS THE IDEA BEHIND IT?
D – The company was named after two of our children, Jemima and Beatrice. They are the same age and great little buddies. The two names worked well together, although the other children do ask why we didn’t name the company after them…!
WHERE DOES THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR COLLECTION COME FROM?
R – We get inspiration from all over the place. We both love fashion and seeing the latest catwalk shows. I love art, jewellery and industrial design – all of which can feed its way into our designs or brainstorming sessions. We try to think outside the box when we’re designing and have fun with it! That’s how we’ve come up with additions to the collection such as the popular MAMA clutches and the Dummy Bear Bags. A lot of our inspiration comes from simply seeing what women and mothers on the street are wearing and carrying. Stylish mothers in the public eye that we love are Nasiba Adilova, Sarah Harris, Katherine Ormerod and Joanna Ellner.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO CREATE A BABY CHANGING BAG BRAND?
D – We have five children between us and are both huge bag lovers. I was totally unimpressed by the changing bags on the market when I had my children and wished that someone made stylish and contemporary changing bags that women would love as much as their favourite non-maternity handbags.
We were both at a point in our career where we had young children and the prospect of returning to long hours and commuting to London was not appealing to us anymore. We had a modest pot from which we could set up the company but we decided to take the risk as we could see huge potential, as there definitely was a gap in the market for our products.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT DESIGNING ACCESSORIES?
R – I love designing accessories because of how democratic they are. They can be enjoyed by everyone, without needing to be a certain size or shape like the clothing world. I also enjoy the research stage, when we’re gathering lots of lovely materials and images. At this point, the possibilities are endless!
WHAT IS THE NEW COLLECTION INSPIRED BY?
D – We wanted to add another backpack to our collection that was even more unisex in its appeal with a more masculine, technical design to it. The bungee cord we used and the silhouette is a nod to the active lifestyle you lead with young children.
WHAT IS THE DESIGN PROCESS AND HOW ARE THE BAGS MADE?
R – It’s very organic to begin with. It might start with a magazine tear or a favourite bag we have at home. We also decide on new designs based on what has sold well the previous seasons and build the range from there. Then I would start sketching a few options of designs we have in mind with different details. We then narrow down our favourites and I do the technical spec and send that to the factory to make proto samples. It’s then a process of refining details, material decisions and getting more samples made! We normally need to go through several proto stages to get the bag just right and ensure it’s very functional and well wear-tested, as well as being pretty to look at!
I love designing accessories because of how democratic they are. They can be enjoyed by everyone, without needing to be a certain size or shape like the clothing world.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE KEY STYLE FROM THE NEW COLLECTION, WHICH WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
D – I love the Cici bag because it’s the perfect size for carrying my daily essentials. It can be worn across the body, as a shoulder bag or carried clutch style making it hugely versatile and a great hands-free option. It also wipes clean, which is necessary when chasing three kids around…
WHAT DOES YOUR WORKSPACE LOOK LIKE?
D – I have an office in my house but it is usually full of samples and trade show paraphernalia so I tend to use the dining room table. We don’t really have the need for an office space as we can work wherever we have our laptops and there is wi-fi, we often meet in Pret for coffee and team meetings just so we don’t turn into hermits sat at home. We also have at least one day a week in London doing meetings or research. Rebecca has a gorgeous outbuilding in her back garden, which is set up as a mini-studio where we can produce our own images.
WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO WHEN YOU’RE WORKING?
D – I need to have quiet when I work or I get distracted too easily!
R – For me, it’s BBC Radio 6!
WHAT ARE THREE THINGS YOU ALWAYS CARRY IN YOUR BAG?
D – Carmex lip balm, travel size Twilly by Hermes perfume, a notebook and pen.
R – Arket hand cream, a Keep Cup for my daily coffee and Paw Paw lip balm.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BRAND IN THREE WORDS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
AND FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS YOU LIVE BY?
‘Never assume anything’, ‘If there’s a better way to do it… find it’, and ‘We didn’t come this far to only come this far…’
With thanks to Dominique and Rebecca X