Penguin chats: Designer Jennifer Hamley

Here at Penguin in the Room we love supporting fellow female entrepreneurs and business women! We spoke to designer and business owner Jennifer Hamley about her design inspiration and being nominated for an award only three years into her business!


Jennifer Hamley

What do you think a handbag should be?

Great question, I think a handbag means something different to everyone. To a few it’s just a thing to tote stuff around in, but to most the bag you choose to carry everyday means much more.

I’ve had women describe how different handbags make them feel. It can be a status symbol, but more often than that, the handbag we choose for a given day or occasion puts us into the mindset of who we want to show up as.

I believe that a handbag should fill you with confidence. It’s something that you carry with you closely wherever you go so it needs to support your busy daily life, as well as make you smile with pride when you catch a glimpse of it.

Why did you redesign the handbag?

I took a close look at how women’s lives have changed in recent years and added features that support that.

The handbag world is full of great design, but with more of us working remotely; occasionally at home or in cafés, on the road or in a hot-desking environment, we need to carry our work and tech with us. I design handbags around the tech that we need, and offer organisation so that we can carry less whilst being more productive.

It is also important for the bag to be beautiful, because who wants to carry an ugly bag when we spend so much of our lives working!?

3 Jennifer Hamley Backback FINALIST winner design instagram share

Why is your new design for the Independent Handbag Designer Awards more than just a bag?

I can’t help feeling that the category was designed just for me! The nomination is for the ultimate cutting edge #GirlBoss bag (& sponsored by Nasty Gal, I’m a big fan!) I’m passionate about designs that do a lot for us, that carry what we need and keep us organised so that we can get on with our lives – and also about designs that let us express ourselves and help us feel confident and fabulous. I designed this bag to be worn different ways to suit what you are doing, to be soft and light weight so that it can carry a little or a lot. It’s a bag that is ready for anything! 

Jennifer Hamley Handbag Awards finalist convertible handbag workbag

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

My favourite thing is meeting all the amazing supportive women (and some men!) that are doing similar things. I felt lonely at first and didn’t know where to turn, but when I found these support groups WOW! (and they are EVERYWHERE!), – they blow me away every day with their knowledge, generosity and friendship.

What’s been the biggest challenges of running your own business?

I often struggle with the amount of things that need doing to running a business. I honestly thought that a serious business woman did it all herself! I was wrong – real business women DELGATE! They surround themselves with people that are better at the little things so that she can focus on the big picture.

Having a business coach and, again, my support group help me to stay on track

What piece of advice has been invaluable in your career?

I was told once that ‘If it’s possible in the world, it’s possible for you’ and it has been my mantra ever since. That has helped me when I’ve not known what to do, or where to learn something. It really helps me to work things out, because if someone else did it, there is a way!

What’s next?

I’ll be jetting off to New York on the 14th June for the Independent Handbag Designer Awards where I am a finalist in the ‘Cutting Edge bag by Nasty Gal’ category that I mentioned before. The awards ceremony will bring 45 designers together for a night of cocktails, connection and couture! Until then I’ll be spreading the word about my design and liaising with my manufacturers to get it into production!   After that I’m away in Asia researching new materials for an upcoming vegan collection, then talking to retailers. It’s an exciting and busy year!


penguinPenguin in the Room @prartsmarketing is a group of creatives with an arts marketing dream: penguin stepping our way into the arts industry and helping other creatives flourish! Specialising in online marketing, social media, branding, copy writing, media coaching and web design for actors, artists, casting directors, agents, production companies, theatre companies and creative individuals.

Contact us any time for penguin chats via or or waddle over to our website: