Hi there; my name is Janine and I am the designer, owner and maker behind Independent Reign. Since 2007, my handcrafted tote bags, beach bags, clutch bags and other accessories have been carefully sewn and constructed in small batches here in New York city by me.
My products are a reflection of a way of doing things that relies on the spirit of creativity, integrity, responsibility, attention to detail and above all, good old-fashioned hard work.
I look to design products that have a modern simplicity with a clean, relaxed, effortless style.
All aspects of production (sourcing materials, begging the UPS guy to carry a 30 lb roll of linen of 4 flights to my workspace/apartment, cutting, ironing, sewing, hammering rivets, packaging and shipping) are done right here by me with the occasional help of an assistant or two.
Its a labor of love; and while it can certainly be challenging at times I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a bag that I've made with my own 2 hands and a customer lets me know how much they enjoy using it.
Sometime between 2006 -2007 I followed my then boyfriend all the way to Hong Kong (he was transferred there for work). I was able to continue working remotely (part time) for the Wall Street tech firm I had been with for 10 years; although I was only logging in for about an hour or two each day. While I was certain that living in Hong Kong and having a ton of free time would enable me to: write the next great bestseller, learn Mandarin, master Karate, volunteer in some worthy causes, become proficient with chopsticks, prepare Dim Sum specialties and journal about all my great adventures; I found instead, that without direction, I floundered. Away from friends and family; and without a schedule or goal, I felt purpose-less. Exhausting the tourist spots, the hidden local spots and anywhere else my flip flops and a little red taxi could take me I soon grew restless.
One day, drifting through a town (as I was prone to do) in search of motivation, I instead found inspiration. Wandering into a tiny shop that caught my eye I discovered shelves from floor to ceiling filled with ribbons and trims in every imaginable color neatly stacked roll upon roll like giant tiered birthday cakes. Further wandering produced an entire town of tiny shops filled with sequins, beads, trims and notions in rainbows of color and pattern. I was absolutely awed by all the colors and textures. I immediately felt my mind kick into gear as I imagined what could be made with each bead or ribbon or zipper. I felt excited! Bargaining mostly in sign language with eager shop owners, I began purchasing a yard or two of the trims as an excuse to continue browsing the seemingly endless shelves and having no idea what I would use them for. Shiny satins, smooth velvets and sparkly sequins all made it into my bag!
With a bit of encouragement from a good friend I set about the endeavor of learning to sew. With a defined task and a creative challenge on my hands I found that minutes easily turned into hours while at my sewing machine. I rediscovered a creative spirit that I had somewhat knowingly pushed aside along the way. I am self-taught through A LOT of trial and error and stubborn determination (and a fair amount of cursing seems to help too).
Fast forward a few years; and I'm back home in New York City. Unfortunately the boyfriend is out, but an adorable Yorkie puppy is in! Uninspiring Wall Street job is out; sewing career is in!
I'm hooked; and I find that I'm always looking at something and thinking, "I wonder if I could make that?" That goes for anything from food to furniture to clothing -- although for now, I'm sticking to accessories! New designs are never far from my mind (some good, some not so good). Often scrawled on napkins, post-its, bills, and other scraps of paper haphazardly tacked to an ever crowded cork-board hanging above my sewing machine.
When I come up with something new, I can't wait to see what it will look like when its done....and then I want to make it in 87 different colors and fabrics. It doesn't always turn out like the vision in my mind...but that's part of the process. I keep working at it, making adjustments and learning as I go. (That's actually not just a sewing lesson I've learned...its become a bit of a life lesson). I often have no idea what I'm doing when I start a project and I usually just 'wing it.' I can be hard on myself when it turns out badly and apparently I think I'm brilliant when it comes out good the first time (a rarity).
I think I lean towards a more casual style. The idea would be to look cool and be comfortable without feeling overdone or too fussy about things.
I can spend hours in a fabric store (just thinking), I'm likely to utter a few profanities when a sneaky pin finds a way to stick me, and the bottoms of my socks are forever covered with loose threads and fabric scraps (as is my little dog, Buddy).
Thanks for browsing my shop and taking the time to read my story. :)