Inspired by the vehicles her husband perfects in his Casper, Wyo.-based diesel performance shop, Janet Louise Fichtner decided to create handbags that celebrate the sleek curves, timeless design, strength and beauty of high-performance cars.
Drawing on colors and design aspects of performance vehicles, J. Louise handbags incorporate genuine automotive steel-making them durable as well as a conversation-starter, with men noticing and admiring them as much as women.
In just six months J. Louise handbags have quickly gained notoriety. They are now sold in more than 50 boutiques around the country, including such high-profile retailers as The Venetian in Las Vegas.
In this Q&A, Fichtner explains the inspiration behind these automotive-inspired accessories.
In less than six months your line has become a nationally sold brand. What do people say they love about your handbags?
JL: They love the unique fashion twist on my handbags and that they are different. They love that the bags are constructed and hold a shape to them, instead of being a large sack.
What inspired you to start J. Louise Handbags?
JL: I had left my corporate job and was helping my husband in his fast-growing diesel performance shop. While helping I just had this idea hit me, and quickly. I mean, I ran home and spent hours drawing my designs and describing the vision for the line. I guess my inspiration was being around what my husband loves and what he does best. He is a mechanical genius. Working in the shop, I was inspired to take my style and mingle it with my husband’s passion. It’s a way to bring bling, fun and elegance to my new world of working in the shop.
Would you describe yourself as a fashionista? When did your love of fashion begin?
JL: I laugh as I say no. I do not necessarily follow all the fashion trends and fashion magazines. However, I love to dress up and make a statement in how I dress. I love to be an example to women, especially younger girls, in dressing up, having fun with style, but with taste, and class. I grew up always wanting to be a fashion designer or maybe even an interior designer. Interestingly enough, I never pursued it until this idea hit me. Hey, never too young to start being what you always wanted to be!
As a professional woman, how do you balance business attire with showcasing your personal style? Are accessories a good way to do that?
JL: Accessories! Accessories help dress things up and show off your personal style, regardless of what the business requires the attire to be.
What would you recommend wearing to the track?
JL: Your favorite pair of jeans, a fun, sassy tailored T-shirt, and a dressy pair of flip-flops with bling. And, of course, any one of the J. Louise handbags!
What kind of car do you drive? Are you and your husband collectors with a passion for fine craftsmanship?
JL: OK, don’t’ laugh. I drive a Denali truck! It’s funny because I just got this new truck. The two things I told my husband when looking for a vehicle were, “I don’t want a truck and I don’t want black.” What do I drive? A black truck! My husband has a passion for the muscle cars. He has a restored 1964 GTO that he has had since he was 18. He also has the most eye-catching, high-performance truck in the state!
Do you enjoy racing or watching racing?
JL: Truth be told, speed and acceleration scares me to death! I so admire any female racer, as she is doing what she loves regardless of the challenge and likely being the minority in the profession. I love that these women can know just as much as the men when it comes to the profession, the inner-workings of the racecar and the industry itself. In a profession like racing, it is a true example of determination!
What did you do before you became a designer? What did you study in school?
JL: I was a CEO of a state organization. Prior to that, along with my schooling, I was in the legal field.
You have a very clean, structural aesthetic that buyers and customers are responding to very well. What else do you think sets your bags apart?
JL: Unique materials, a fun concept, a twist to fashion and a well-thought-out vision for the business.
Do you support a charity or are you involved in charity work?
JL: I have a passion and heart for charities and making a difference. From day one, I have discussed and planned on doing charity events with J. Louise. More than just with the sales or money, I want to incorporate giving out the handbags as well. I already have pages (probably too many) of ideas on incorporating my handbags with charity work and events. I am excited to start. I believe my charity work will involve helping women and children that are involved in trafficking-rough area, too much of it happening and it is destroying the hopes of so many women and children.
And lastly – What do you do for fun?
JL: Well, up until six months ago I used to (just kidding)… Both my husband and I have Harleys and we love to jump on the bikes and take road trips. We love our Sunday morning rides in the summer. I also enjoy playing (learning) the drums, reading, walks with my girlfriends, coffee and pedicures!
More information on the handbags is available at www.jlouise.net.