Having worked as a designer for brands such as Mulberry, Burberry and Anya Hindmarch, London-based Rebecca De Silva Lima knows how to create a covetable handbag. But it was after the birth of her daughter Beatrice, 2, that her focus turned to chic baby changing bags. Together with her childhood friend Dominique Hughes, De Silva Lima has launched JEM + BEA, a luxury range of baby bags that blend functionality and fashion.
I was using my normal handbag but it wasnt as functional as a baby bag. Cue milk stained lining and endless rummaging! says Hughes, who has three children (Lola, 5, Alfred, 4, and Jemima, 2) and understands exactly what a mother needs from her baby tote. She approached De Silva Lima about launching a collection of baby bags and they went from there. It felt like the perfect timing for me as I was finding it hard to juggle a full time job in London with looking after Bea and constantly had that guilty mother feeling, says De Silva Lima. Plus, being able to start the business from their own homes meant they could be flexible around the needs of their families. Our homes are our offices and sometimes, a crèche! says De Silva Lima.
Last September, the stylish pair got to work. Here we are a year later with a range of five bags, a sleek modern website and interest from stockists around the world, says Hughes. We loved catching up with the talented duo to find out more about their latest venture
JEM + BEA Jemima bag, $570
Why is JEM+BEA unique in the market?
We have created bags that look like beautiful, modern and luxurious handbags, yet have all the organisation of a baby changing bag.
What are your tips for launching a business?
Listen to your instincts, surround yourself and take help and advice from people you trust and want you to achieve. Keep a close eye on your cashflow and dont underestimate the power of social media.
How do you juggle your site with motherhood? Is your day quite structured?
Were still learning! Our children are all under five and we have four between us – were literally juggling babies and bags most days. Some of our most pivotal meetings have happened with us and three toddlers in the room at 50 decibels, scribbling all over our sketches – its a wonder we get anything done! We are both lucky to have hugely supportive family and friends so when we need to go to meetings or events, we get our work time too.
JEM + BEA Jemima bag, $570
How do you achieve balance?
Rebecca: Its always a struggle to get a good work/family/life balance, especially when starting a new business. But its all a learning curve and certainly things are more flexible when you are your own boss. We’ve learned to say yes please! to friends and family that want to help out and give us time for ourselves.
Dominique: Its hard, especially when working from home, as there are always emails to reply to and things to be done. I’ve tried to make weekends weekends again and prioritise what can wait until Monday morning.
JEM + BEA Beatrice bag, $425
How would you describe your personal style?
Rebecca: Easy and minimal. I’ve always had a simple approach to fashion and now that Im a mother fashion is still really important to me, but it has to be super easy. Also, being a bag designer, I like to keep clothes simple so that I can jazz things up with accessories. Dresses have been a great friend to me, especially now as a mother. Its a complete outfit in one and you always feel a little bit smart in a dress, even if its paired-down with sneakers. Right now Im loving my clean, white Birkenstocks paired with a dress from COS.
Dominique: I think we are both similar. I invest in key pieces such as jeans and tailored jackets and love to layer, then add seasonal colours and trends with smaller pieces – and of course, a handbag to bring the outfit together. I love American Vintage, Zara and all things Net-a Porter.
What has motherhood taught you?
Rebecca: That motherhood is definitely the hardest job on the planet. I used to think long days at the office were tough but nothing compares to a little person being completely dependant on you at all times. Its also taught me what unconditional love really means.
Dominique: Its taught me flexibility and selflessness plans change constantly, especially with three children under five! And its taught me how to have more patience than I ever thought possible, and to view the world with a fresh perspective as seen through the eyes of my children. Everything can be made fun…
Words: Eva Lo