Handbag Designer Jessica Davis on Wearable Art and Female Empowerment

Leather has always proved itself to be reliable and fashionably eternal. Pair leather and brightly colored hues in the mix, you’ll have a bag completely worth the investment. What we carry with us can reveal a lot about our character, passions and what we value. Jessica Davis, a local artist, and designer, illustrates the virtue of female empowerment through her company, Jay Davis Bags and Jay Davis Studio.

“Jay Davis Bags is a bespoke, rocker chic handbag line in Denver, Colorado. My handbags are ‘Art to Wear’ pieces. I take pride in knowing that clients are carrying something that is truly one of a kind and speaks to them. When people buy a handbag from my line, they’re not only purchasing a beautiful bag, but they’re investing in so much more. My goal for Jay Davis Bags and Jay Davis Studio is to represent community, LGBTQ, female empowerment and art. I want to be a leader in that, and I want to make changes in the ways I know I can,” said Davis.

Davis’ zeitgeist of community and empowerment is felt through her wall of leather swatches accompanied by a collage wall full of images of family, strong women and irreplaceable memories. Recently 303 Magazine joined Davis in her studio to talk all things leather. Leather, Leather Bags, Custom Bags, Purse, Designer, Denver Designer, 303 Magazine, Jordan McClendon, Jessica Davis, Jay Davis Bags, Jay Davis Studio, Female Empowerment, Feminism, LGBTQ, Colorado, Local Business, Leslie Oschmann, Annelise Blackwood, Photography, Michael Dowling

303 Magazine: Tell us what piqued your interest in leather and design. 

Jay Davis: I grew up in a creative home with my mom sewing pretty consistently. When I was in 8th grade, my football coach at the time was also my history teacher. He brought in a garbage bag full of leather scraps and the students had to make a medicine bag by hand. I fell in love with sewing leather and the rest is “history” so to speak.

303: Where do you pull your inspiration from?

JD: Oh gosh, all over! I have my large inspiration wall in my studio that is very useful to me every single day. It helps me get into a groove creatively. I love looking at magazines, Pinterest or look books. I also think the environment around me is super inspiring. That’s why I live in Colorado.

Travel is super important for my inspirationally as well. When I find the time for it, I love it. Lastly, the people I surround myself with. I look at my network and I love the people I know. They are extremely talented and hardworking individuals too. It’s so motivating and I’m super grateful to be in their company. Leather, Leather Bags, Custom Bags, Purse, Designer, Denver Designer, 303 Magazine, Jordan McClendon, Jessica Davis, Jay Davis Bags, Jay Davis Studio, Female Empowerment, Feminism, LGBTQ, Colorado, Local Business, Leslie Oschmann, Annelise Blackwood, Photography, Michael Dowling

303: Do you have any leather maintenance tips?

JD: Well, a trick for sure when your fringe is wrinkled is to lightly steam it. When I’m installing a large scale piece somewhere or even if a bag gets wrinkled, I lightly steam it. The wrinkles will fall out immediately. Do not walk in the rain if you’re wearing leather or carrying it. If it’s raining, I seriously carry my bag in front of me and run. The leather will stiffen and it’s not a fun look. It will never be the same. Basic maintenance. We’re in Colorado, if you feel like your bag is getting dry, condition it.

303: What are your goals for your artwork and business this upcoming year?

JD: Oh man, there are a lot of things. This is a very broad statement, but growth. I want to continue to have Jay Davis grow. I’m creating the life I want for myself and on my own. It’s super important to me to continue to spread my creativity in places. I also have some huge projects that are coming my way in the next year. I want to nail those. I want to walk away having completed them feeling proud that I pushed myself and explored.

I also want to continue to do collaborative photoshoots and projects with women. I’ve had so many incredible experiences doing this and I believe the more this happens the stronger our female community is here in Denver. There is a confidence naturally built because we are getting to know each other and support one another.

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303: Do you have a favorite bag designer?

JD: There are a lot of designers that inspire me. That’s a super tough question for me to answer. I have loved Leslie Oschmann for years. I love what she does and it’s such a beautiful throwback to painters I admire.

303: How would you describe your style?

JD: Rocker, eclectic, chic.

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303: Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on?

JD: I’m working with artist Michael Dowling for 2020. It’s a huge collaboration for my large scale. The ideas that we have are insane so far and I cannot wait to have this show. It’s very politically charged. Our subjects are Marie Antoinette and Napoleon inspired. There will be a lot of stories painted and stitched into this show that are current today. Whether that’s the fight for human rights and acceptance of any human being to the white mansplaining of our time.

Michael and I work extremely well together and challenge each other in the best of ways. I’m stoked for this and I think it’s going to resonate for a lot of people. It’s interesting to look at both of those people and their decline. It was the one percent totally blowing it in ways. I think that the overall theme is pretty relevant right now and people need to keep speaking up. That’s the only way injustice will change.

303: What are your favorite pieces to style your bags with?

JD: I have some pretty stellar duster jackets, bombers and hats. I’d say I have the most fun with those pieces. Oh, and my capes! I have collected seven and I absolutely love rocking them in fall with a bag.

303: What have been some of your greatest challenges in having your own business?

JD: There are a lot of challenges in running a business. I would say the first being just beginning and having people become familiar with who you are and what you do. You have to network. People want to know the face behind the business. It’s very hard as a creative to do what you are wired to do and then have to take on every aspect of your business because things are growing. That’s a positive for sure, but then it’s learning how to let go and delegate. It’s hard to do that when this is your baby, and this is how you are wired inside. To give someone a piece of that is scary and hard to do. Its an absolute must though because we all have strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you’re not the best at is so good! Let someone else who isn’t wired like you do the things you are not wired to do.

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All photography by Annelise Blackwood.

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