The significance of paying homage to the complexity of women is more significant now than ever. March highlights Women’s History Month which commemorates and celebrates the importance of the role of women in America.
From Ann Lowe to Zelda Wynn Valdes and Carly Cushnie, these gallant and bold African American fashion designers have worked with some of the nation’s most regal in Hollywood and they can add a recent couturier to the list.
Clutch and handbag designer, Dorothy Harris of J. Harris Designs of Atlanta, Georgia is recently retired after working in sales at AT&T but the 70-year-old fashionista is now the vision behind her unique and fashion-forward purses.
Winner of QVC’s The Big Find Competition, Harris and her daughter Blair Armstrong have successfully co-owned J. Harris Designs with an all-women team of seamstresses, that are embodying what powerful women look like. Humbled by establishing a pivotal point in her entrepreneurial journey, the trendsetter said that the opportunity reaffirmed that her clutches are well sought out!
BET sat down with the influential designer who must have her cell-phone, lipstick, wallet, keys, and a good book to read in her everyday handbag, to talk about her handmade reversible patterned clutches.
Harris says that the vision behind her unique and fashion-forward handbags is to provide women with a fashionable yet functional accessory that can enhance any outfit. She wants her creative designs to empower her J.Harris design customers to not only make “bold” but “purposeful fashion statements.”
“I get a joy from pairing ornate and luxurious textile and brocades and subsequently making them into a one of a kind clutch,” she said.
Looking at her when her passion for designing and creating came into fruition Dorothy while always adoring classic fashion she never truly explored creating her own designs until she was unable to find a certain clutch purse that she needed for an event.
“I attempted to create my own,” she said. “I had no experience in fashion or design. [But] I truly enjoyed being able to pair colors and patterns that most would not think of.”
The designer said that her creative juices began to flow as she took on the challenge to make her first bag. The process was exhilarating and she was hooked from the start. With many handbag options on the market, a J.Harris Design creation stands out in the sea of many because it is BOLD! The color palette and patterns come from only Mrs. Dorothy herself and with its functionality and versatility, the accessory is perfectly paired for any ensemble.
“A perfect handbag is any purse that makes you walk taller and step higher when you put it on your arm,” she says.
Incorporating international silks and fabrics into her design Dorothy Harris has traveled internationally with her twin sister JoeAnn, as they celebrated their 70th birthday to bring back some of the distinctive silks and fabrics for her chic clutches. Recently coming back from South-East Asia, Dorothy plans to fuse her newest threads into her second limited-edition line.
Her first line was inspired after she traveled to Morocco.
Pulling from her family tree and favorite songstresses, Harris has intentionally named each purse after a significant woman that has been impactful in her life. Most importantly, the Laura, Sadie, and Rosa Lee were named after her mother, mother-in-law and maternal grandmother.
A Spring 2020 collection is currently in production with the hopes that the line will release in early April debuting the designs at a pop-up shop.
When it comes to her go-to purse style, Harris who defines herself as a clutch girl says that its versatile design can be dressed up or down even in the simplest of outfits.
“Everybody loves a good satchel or tote for the demands of your everyday hustle and bustle but when you get dressed for a fancy event or even hitting the town with your significant other,” she says. “[But] a clutch provides an elegant and classic look that cannot be denied. “
As her one-of-a-kind bags continue to expand locally and globally, the fashionista would love to see the classic and edgy actress Angela Basset to rock one of her purses.
“I experience a transformative feeling when I wear a clutch,” she says. “I hope that with the bold color choices and stylish fabrics used for J. Harris Designs, that I am able to share that same feeling with others.”
You can shop her collections at thejharrisdesigns.com!
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
(Photo courtesy of J. Harris Designs)
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