JINGJING FAN // ELLEME

Baozi, Madeleine, Raisin…just four years after their launches, Jingjing Fan’s Elleme bags are already spotted must-haves.

Monnier Frères: Tell us about yourself. Who are you?
Jingjing Fan: My name is Jingjing, I'm Chinese. I studied in Paris, at Sciences Po. After my studies I went to work in Hong Kong, and immediately after, I decided to start my own brand, Elleme.

MF: What does the name "Elleme" mean?
JF: Elleme is a play on words, "Elle aime" (She loves) in French. I want to create something that women love.

MF: Who is the Elleme woman?
JF: It's a very vague idea, it's not a specific demographic. We are a very understated brand, but our original details make us stand out from the crowd. [The Elleme woman] is someone very confident, she doesn't need big logos. She is professional, successful in her job. Her confidence is effortless.

MF: Why did you choose to focus on designing handbags?
JF: Because accessories are my passion, especially handbags. To me they are essential to a person's look. Often, you could be wearing something very striking or very simple, and an unusual or super-chic handbag can totally change your look.

MF: The brand was created in 2015 and has already built up a reputation. Can you tell us about your flagship designs?
JF: The first model I created was the Grape bag. Why the name? Because our first model was burgundy, the colour of grapes.

 

 

The shape is also reminiscent of a raisin. I wanted to do something different from what was already on the market. It's not a square bag, it's not a round bag, it's totally different. The Grape was a success, and straight away, internet users started to give it nicknames because they thought it looked like a Chinese dumpling. And since I'm Chinese, I was happy to be able to call the second model Baozi, which means "bun" or "dumpling" in Chinese. Then there's the mini version, which we called Madeleine because it's shaped like a cake. It also expresses our French side, since the brand was founded in Paris.

MF: Do you plan to expand into ready-to-wear or other accessories in the future?
JF: I couldn't say. For the time being we are focusing on accessories. But why not ready-to-wear in the future? We will be presenting our first footwear collection for the Spring/Summer 2020 season. I'm very excited! We've found great suppliers and we know we will have great products. There is a bit of everything, but they are all very comfortable shoes that can be worn every day. They're very chic, very feminine but at the same time cool and different.

MF: Your Instagram account is very Paris-centric. Is it important for you to have such a strong identity in connection with the French capital?
JF: Personally, I love Paris. It's like my second home. Paris always inspires me, and I can always find ideas walking in the streets. It's very important for the brand to have this identity, so it's seen as a Parisian brand. But at the same time, we insist on the fact that the designs are by a Chinese woman and made in Italy. It's international!

MF: Is it important for you to manufacture in Italy?
JF: Italy is known for its expertise in leather goods, and we trust their expertise. And logistically, it's close for us. We go to Italy every two weeks, we can monitor the production and the samples. It's easier.

MF: You work with a lot of influencers. Is social media an important tool for you?
JF: We are a brand of the Instagram generation. We started out in 2015, in the midst of the Instagram wave, and this social network in particular allows brands like us to grow very quickly. With all the influencers comes significant visibility. We will continue on this path, while at the same time developing the media/print side to create a synergy.

 

MF: You have positioned yourself between high street and luxury. Did you notice a gap in the market?
JF: It's a very interesting gap. A few years ago there were no such brands. If people wanted to buy a good quality bag, it was immediately 1000 or 2000 euros, otherwise it was fast-fashion brands. But we really wanted to do something high quality that is durable, but affordable, that most people can afford to buy.

MF: The first accessory you owned?
JF: A jade bracelet, which I was given, as in Chinese culture. I still have it, but at home in China.

MF: What's more important: bag or shoes?
JF: Bag! Because I think it's essential to the look. Shoes are not very visible, and for me the most important thing is that they're comfortable because you have to walk, you have to work, you are not sitting down all day. So it's really the bag that stands out.

MF: If you weren't a designer, what would you be?
JF: When I was young, I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, so...
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