Fringe is Forever for this Handbag Designer
By Angela Caraway-Carlton | Photography by Carlos Aristizabal
Forget trends that come and go. No matter how you slice it, Jennifer Haley was into fringe before it was “in.” For the Boca Raton handbag designer, it’s always and forever a staple, making up more than 50 percent of her namesake leather collection.
“It’s been fringe since I started, and it will continue to be fringe,” Haley says, as we sit in her Boca Design Center showroom. “It’s a conversation piece. My friends say it’s therapeutic when they’re out and they’re just doing this,” the bubbly brunette adds as she rubs and twirls the fringe of a nearby bag.
Haley is quickly making a name for herself in South Florida and across the country, especially with celebs like Halle Berry, Heidi Klum, Selena Gomez and Fergie. The 35-year-old’s devout followers will instantly recognize her distinct creations, which are made with hand-cut fringe, whipstitching and knot detailing. The soft leather bags are made in Colorado and Mexico from the highest-quality leather from the No. 1 leather distributor in the United States.
Right now, Haley boasts eight styles in her collection. She believes part of her success is creating a style for everyone – moms, daugh
ters and grandmothers – so “all three generations can wear the same bag.” Styles include the Bohemian, a crossbody; the Sophisticated Shopper, her top-selling shoulder bag; the Stroll, an oversized crossbody with three rows of fringe; and the All That Fringe, which is her most dramatic bag yet with 30 inches of fringe.
“I feel like wearing accessories is like playing a different character, and I think, maybe from my theater days, I like to dress the part,” says Haley. “Everyone plays a different character with their outfits every day. You have to dress your mood, so I feel like a bag is an easy way to express yourself.”
Haley’s career started in Los Angeles, where she was an actress (with small roles in popular television shows), but she always had a part in the fashion business by working at one of the area’s hottest boutiques. When her grandmother fell ill in 2006, Haley left behind her acting career and moved to Boca Raton to be near her family. Leaning on her fashion roots, she opened her own boutique, Trilogy, in Delray Beach, and then later went on to become a buyer for Alene Too in Boca. For fun, she started designing leather bags on the side and selling them to friends and family.
But everything changed in 2011. She took a risk and hosted a trunk show at Alene’s. She brought in 23 of her bags, and to her surprise, she sold 19 that day. Ready or not, it was clear that she was in the business of bags. “I went home that night and said, ‘Alright, I’m going to make it a real business,’” she says. “I went to the bank, got a license, opened up an account and I registered my company.”
Haley would receive her first big break in 2013 when celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe (they’d met several times over the last 10 years) was seen carrying one of her bags. Three years later, her collection is sold in 98 stores nationwide, along with three international.
“I’ve had girls come in with envelopes with my name on them because they’ve been saving up for a year to buy a bag,” Haley says. “I still, everyday, feel like it’s not real.”
And she’s not stopping there. Haley recently launched a kid’s line of handbags named after her daughter Zoey Rae, and later this year, she’ll introduce Jennifer Haley Home. She’s already designed three big, leather pillows and plans to launch in September in time for the holidays. Whether it’s “in” or “out” by then, not surprisingly, the pillows will have the one thing Haley stands by forever: the fringe factor.
Fringed wallets start at $48; bags retail from $98 to $620. www.shopjenniferhaley.com