Houston’s style scene has a new luxury brand on its radar, and it comes in a super chic, all-leather bag. Local handbag line, JJ Olivier, founded by Houston mother-daughter duo Jodi Oliver and Jamie Scholhamer, just launched its first collection, and it’s sure to be a city-wide favorite this summer.
Fashion is rooted in the Oliver family. Starting with Jodi’s maternal grandmother Marcelite who always had a handbag ready to hit the town. Jodi reminisces on her grandmother’s stylish eye for accessories, which she says was passed on to her daughter Jamie, who has had a passion for designing since her early years. Once Jamie decided she wanted to design handbags, Jodi and Jamie worked together to design the line, because, unlike apparel, “accessories always fit.”
“Handbags play such an important role in our everyday lives,” Jamie tells Houstonia. “I don't go anywhere without my handbag and whenever I’m purchasing one, I want to make sure I have a good one.”
Just in time for spring, JJ Olivier released its first collection of splashy handbags all named after Olivier relatives. The blooming batch includes the Aline Tote, Carmalite Crossbody, Marcelite Satchel, Minette Wallet, and Porter Pouch. The bags are available in an array of bright swatches such as evergreen, passion pink, teal, oyster white, and noir black. With an eye for intricate details, Jamie insisted on featuring ruffle accents, which happens to be one of the season’s most sought-after trends.
"I like to design a staple piece that will last through the trends," says Jamie. "The first time I drew a ruffle on the bag, Jodi looked at me and was like, 'well, you can't ruffle leather,' but I wanted a ruffle, so we had to find something. With my mom's sewing knowledge, she quickly came up with the ‘flounce,’ which was fun."
With a market already saturated by renowned labels such as Louis Vuitton, Bottega Venetta, and Gucci, JJ Olivier knew they’d have to break the mold. Although striking designs and authentic materials may catch the eye, the team focused on filling the initial role of a handbag-functionality and practicality.
Embedded in each bag is a pocket, varying in size to fit essential items such as keys, wallets, or lip balm. The bag also features the signature mini essentials pocket that is specially made for jewelry and trinkets. The goal is for shoppers to have a pleasant and comfortable experience with their bags, without the hassle of trying to find the things they need.
"We put a lot of thought into our pocket placement and what types of pockets we wanted to include," Jamie tells Houstonia. "Personally, what I have never seen in a bag before is our mini essentials pocket, to hold like your rings when you're getting a manicure, or when you're eating crawfish. I tend to lose things especially if it's something small, so we created a pocket that was specific for your small items.”
While the brand prepared for production to launch in 2020, so did the COVID-19 pandemic. With their manufacturer based in New York City, JJ Olivier had to put a pause on production due to the lockdown, but that didn’t stop them from designing in hopes they could launch soon after.
"It just delayed us, but we used the time to round out packaging and other minor things," Jodie says. "I think we used our time pretty wisely. We didn't shut down. We just kept on doing what we could do. So it all worked out."
After its first year, JJ Olivier plans on donating a portion of proceeds to the Dress For Success Foundation, and they intend to choose a new charity or organization to give back to each year. "I mean, a large part of why we're in business is because we like to give back to people, especially women, and Dress For Success has been a big supporter of the community," says Jodi.
The latest collection is now available to shop for the spring and summer season takeover with prices ranging from $225 to $1,120. Next, the brand will focus on its upcoming fall collection, with new handbag styles and a more comprehensive array of colors.
"As we grow our line, we want to remind our shoppers you're not paying for the high name, but it's a great quality bag," says Jamie.
For more information, visit JJ Olivier online.