I’ve never been a ‘handbag girl’, though I do remember buying my first, at 14: a tan bag by Jane Shilton — it’s probably quite ugly now, but I loved it. I’d saved up all my money to buy it. It was a defining moment of feeling like a grown-up. But I never thought I’d design my own.
Handbag designer Charlotte Jamme, 47, had her lightbulb moment while sharing a jacuzzi with other ex-pat mothers
Everything changed in 2004, when I’d just met Philippe. I woke up one day and couldn’t breathe. He called an ambulance and I found out I had blood clots on my lungs. It was a real wake-up call. I realised life is too short not to take risks.
So, when Philippe got a job in Hong Kong only four months into us dating, I went with him. We had both our daughters there, before moving to Vietnam in 2008.
As a result, I was travelling a lot between Vietnam, Hong Kong and the UK. It was hard work with two small children. I had a giant Tesco bag, which I’d constantly be rooting around in — it drove me mad! Then, in 2010, I was on a girls’ holiday with other expat mums. We were in the Jacuzzi when everyone started moaning about how they could never find the perfect travel bag that was stylish, yet practical.
I started brainstorming the ‘perfect’ bag. It needed to be big, with lots of pockets, plus a key clip, insulated bottle holder, removable clutch bag and clear PVC wallet for 100ml travel toiletries.
They discussed how there was no bag available that was both stylish and practical. Zoe bag in Cobalt, £47, and Annabelle in Berry, £50, miatui.com
At home, I found a manufacturer. The first attempt was a disaster — I almost gave up — but the second worked. I ordered 200 for a trade fair. We sold out in six weeks.
In early 2011, I launched a website for Mia Tui: it means ‘my bags’ in Vietnamese. Soon after, my husband lost his job and we moved back to the UK. We went into business full-time, branching out into baby-changing bags, too. By 2013, we were also stocked in John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bebe.
Today, we’re sold on QVC and online. We have 25 designs and a £2 million turnover. The bags are also 100 per cent vegan, to make them as affordable as possible.
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