Eco-friendly jute carry alls, buttery soft leather jackets, cosy cushions and dog beds… Susan Venables of Juju Bags brings the most stylish versions of these to Life Instyle Sydney this February. Susan shared a little of her and her brand’s history with us recently…
How did you get to where you are today?…
It is said that life is a series of happy coincidences. Well that certainly applies to me. I’ve had many lives! And worn many hats! From starting out as a Russian translator through to counseling at Sydney Hospital I now ﬁnd myself knee deep in bags, dog beds and leather jackets.
Jujubags is very much part of Mother of Pearl & Sons Trading. Connie and I are the Jujubags team, but we also draw on the support and manpower of the staff at Mother of Pearl. And having Sydney and Melbourne showrooms, our clients can view our ranges and collect their orders from us if they wish.
I’ve always dabbled in art and design. In response to many requests I started out organising custom bags for other companies as we had connections with the jute industry and experience in importing from Kolkata. We still do custom bags but my passion is my own range of stone washed jute and leather bags which has now grown into a successful range.
Tell us about Juju Bags…
The importance of jute as a eco friendly material worldwide cannot be underestimated. After losing its popularity in the 1950s with the cheapness and proliferation of plastic, the jute industry is now thriving again as a result of our need to reduce our carbon footprint and use of plastic bags. We work with our manufacturers to develop soft textural jute fabrics in beautiful tones.
I have manufacturers in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. These are worlds so very different to ours. Often rather sobering. I am committed to bringing their talents and craftsmanship to my products with ﬂow-on beneﬁts for communities in these countries. While there are particular challenges – think ‘lost in translation’ – we are getting results we are very proud of.
I visit all of my suppliers factories to see the working conditions for myself. Over the years I have developed close relationships with my manufacturers and consider them part of the Jujubags family.
I don’t follow fashion trends particularly, but I know what I like. Fortunately, my style is on trend given the success I’ve had so far. I like timeless well crafted pieces and I desperately hope to see a shift away from the throw away culture towards better quality, craftsmanship and a lighter environmental footstep.
My inﬂuences are…
:: Many and varied – family – husband, daughter, dog an cat. Kolkata, which is still teaching me tolerance and amazes me every visit. Sailing. We have an old wooden boat, hand built by a true craftsman that will outlast me for sure. This is craftsmanship your life depends on!
:: Australian lifestyle. I came to Australia from the UK more than 20 years ago. I really feel lucky to be part of the unique Australian design trend that is going on.
Best piece of advice…
Less is more! Keep it simple and tough it out!
Why Life Instyle?…
This will be my third Life Instyle. I’m back because being there works for me! I’ve created relationships with retailers from far and wide. Life Instyle is an important brand building exercise for me and it is a chance to link up with retailers we would ﬁnd hard to connect with otherwise.
Some of our many stockists have become part of the Jujubags family, and we love the personal relationships we have developed. With each show, more stockists come on board with us as our brand becomes known.
I’ll be showing my latest lamb leather bags – super supple and the leather falls beautifully. There will be other surprises and I’ve made improvements to our popular designs which I think has resulted in even better products.
I look forward to seeing you there. One closing bit of philosophy. Business is tough. But it works when buyer and seller connect through shared appreciation for style and quality.