Growing up with Jennifer Nicole

I first met Jen back in high school. I've tried so hard to remember where we were or when it was when we first met, but honestly... I have no recognition. (Was it dance class, Jen?) Call me a bad friend, but I can't recall the day we met because I can't remember not having her in my life. Even though I don't remember the exact day, I know our friendship begun in the most effortless way. It was so natural when it began, it felt like she had always been there. 

Like any old friends, our history is full of memories of being young, or rather - being young and stupid. Our pasts are dredged with mistakes: bad haircuts, bad behavior, bad boys... we saw the good, the bad and the ugly in each other, but it brought us closer and made us real friends. Somehow, we managed to hang tight on to one another and survive high-school. I can vividly remember all the times we spent together, and how wonderful it was to have a friend in her. When we graduated, Jen went to college in Cincinnati and I stayed in Raleigh. Although college distanced us, our friendship never changed. We would always pick up right where we left off. Every time we would meet up, I realized how we were changing. We were growing out of those giggly, naturally immature high-school girls and into strong, daring, driven women. High school did us some good - it gave us each other.

Jen has always been the fashion yin to my yang. She specialized in shoes and handbags; with a knack for fun, colorful and organically shaped purses. Throughout college, I encouraged her to study design as she begun to dabble in sketching and would sometimes ask for my input. She was always fashionable, always creative and always true to herself. It was sometime last year when she told me that she had drawn up a purse design and was contacting a manufacturer in Italy to produce them. I was overjoyed. Throughout all those years of being kids, I had somehow known without knowing that this was what she was meant to do. 

Today, I have the privilege of showing off her very first design that is now available for purchase through her website. Meet her 'Bug' bag: 100% Italian leather crossbody. Simple in shape but a bang for your buck, this purse has literally not left my shoulder since I received it. The strap is removable and adjustable, so you can use it for any outfit and switch it to transition through even the most dramatic of quick-changes. Not only that, it's gray. And we all know how I feel about that. This purse speaks for itself, it's a basic essential. I love it for it's ease, but I love it because it shows off the masterful creative talent of my sweet friend. This is her forte. This is what she was born to do. Look at us Jen! We've finally grown up. And although we still have a long way to go, I couldn't be prouder of the woman you've become

Below, you can read my interview with Jen about her collection.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you attend school and what was your field of study?

Jen: I went to school at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and I was in the college of Business and specialized in Marketing. I thought it was important to have a background in business no matter where I ended up in life. Marketing appealed to me the most because of advertising and understanding the consumer end of business, all of which has been incredibly helpful so far!

Me: So what drew you to work in fashion? How did Jennifer Nicole Collection come about?

Jen: I've had a love for fashion for as long as I can remember! I was the "fashionista" of the family as they would call me. Knowing about different designers and new trends always fascinated me and I was always shopping! I think pretty early on in high school I decided I wanted to work in the industry in some shape or form but it wasn't until the last couple years of college that I started to focus more on the accessories. I guess I should have known though because my closet (Even back in middle school and high school) has always been jammed full of shoes and purses!

Me: Trust me folks, I can vouch for that. So your 'Bug' bag is essentially your first edition of what I hope is to be many more editions of bags! Tell us about the design, the shape, what makes it unique. What did you keep in mind when designing it? What were your non-negotiables?

Jen: My favorite thing about the “Bug” bag is the interior.  When I was designing it, I knew right from the beginning that I wanted something small and I always wanted something versatile with simplicity in mind.  That is how I came up with the idea to combine the best aspects of a cross-body bag and a wallet, the interior has organizational pockets, a zip pocket, spaces for credit cards, essentially eliminating the need for a bulky wallet.  This makes everything easy access and the size of the “Bug” bag is perfect for the grab-and-go whether it be to run out for errands, a night on the town or even for keeping just the essentials on hand when traveling. Like I mentioned before, simplicity and versatility were key along with form and function of the bag. I provide high quality that holds up to your every need! 

Me: Tell us about the manufacturing process for the 'Bug'. Where is your manufacturer located? How are they made? 

Jen: I have an amazing manufacturer in Italy and him and his team hand-make all of the bags from start to finish. {Fun fact for those of you out there that love Twilight, my manufacturer’s factory is about 30 minutes from where they filmed the Volturi scenes. This came about because my last name just so happens to be Cullen and he found this tidbit funny because apparently even in Italy, the Twilight references follow me.} As far as the actual process goes, it starts with deciding the kind of leather that will be used and then hand dying the chosen leather. From there the leather is then cut into pieces and prepared for being stitched. This work is entirely carried out by hand and becomes difficult when using valuable leathers, where the slightest error or wastage means that considerable amounts of money are wasted, and so you absolutely have to get it right first time.  Next is the leather stitching.  The leather is either hand-stitched or stitched with the simplest of sewing machines, which allow finer, straighter and tougher sewing of the more difficult parts. It is very intricate work and must be carried out with meticulous care and attention. The Banconista (craftsman that stitches the bag together) needs a huge wealth of experience to be able to stitch fine, straight and symmetrical seams on leather. Once the bag is stitched, all of the hardware is added. Once the hardware is completed, the bag is finished and ready to be sold!

Me: If you can choose, share with us your favorite purse designer! Who has your stamp of approval? What is it that you like about them?

Jen: I’ve actually got a couple! There are far too many inspirations and favorites to pick just one, so I’ll just narrow it down to my top 3.  First I think I have to go with Kate Spade, the bright colors really just sucker me in and I love that I can look at a bag and instantly know it’s a Kate Spade just by the feminine, girly chic vibe I get from her work.  I think another favorite would have to be Jimmy Choo.  Like I said before.. shoes and purses! I can’t help myself, and more specifically, Jimmy Choo clutches are really just so ahead of the trend and never fail to get it right with both design and functionality.  Finally I think another favorite, for sentimental reasons along with the fact that she is insanely talented, is Abby Held, the lead designer for Kooba handbags.  I’ve had many Kooba bags over the years and not only are they great quality but they always have a great balance between creating a classic bag with the perfect amount of edginess to it.  These bags are bold and beautiful, I also love that her company stands for empowering women to really embrace themselves and express themselves, I can’t say enough how much I love both Abby and her Kooba designs!  

Me: What's in your purse? What do you always carry with you?

Jen: I am usually such a hoarder that my “Bug” bag has really gotten me into the habit of carrying just what I need, really cutting back on clutter, I now have easy access to all my favorite items!  I always make sure that I have my credit cards and ID with me at all times, as well as my insurance cards and I never leave home without my Starbucks Gold card! (There are only 3 credit card spaced in the interior of the bag BUT the best part is that within each space, I can put up to 3 cards, so I never have to pick and choose what’s the most important card or have to worry about needing to switch them out!)  In the zip pocket I usually carry some cash with me, hair ties and my phone USB chord.  Everything else in my bag usually consists of lip balm, a mini lotion bottle, house keys and car keys, business cards, a pen, gum, and of course my iPhone 6!  I can usually throw a pair of Rayban sunglasses in as well on exceptionally sunny days!  Now that I think of it, this purse is a mini Mary Poppins bag, so expect me to pull out lamps and other extraordinary items on occasion as well! 

Me: So what can we expect from Jennifer Nicole Collection next season? New shapes, sizes, colors? All of the above?!

Jen: For the first few years, Jennifer Nicole Collection will be releasing 1-2 new designs per season, so be prepared for us to grow gradually!  However just because we are small that doesn’t mean we can’t make a big statement! As for the next designs, I am going to be keeping up with the simplicity theme, but look out for something a bit larger.  Not only that but I am absolutely loving exotic skins right now and that will play a large role in future products, as well as my love for all things bright colors! I’m really enjoying being able to play with the ideas of ostrich or alligator designs in every color imaginable, so think along those lines for what’s to come! But don’t worry, I'll be giving you a taste of a classic neutral as well!  As the details for new bag releases come about I will be keeping everyone updated on our Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram, so there is lots to keep up with in the meantime, all of which can be found by visiting out website at

Blouse: Theory, Shorts: J. Crew, Flats: J. Crew, Sunglasses: Westward \\ Leaning, Purse: Jennifer Nicole Collection