StyleBistro Exclusive Interview: Jenny Craig's Granddaughter Launches a High-End Handbag Line

The entrepreneurial spirit appears to run in Jenny Craig's family. The diet mogul's granddaughter, Sydney Weinger, has launched Morton & Hudson, a line of high-end, Italian leather handbags with a minimalist aesthetic and pieces that make a statement, like the Kensington clutch: a literal, oversized take on an envelope. We talked to Weinger, who graduated from Parson's School of Design five months ago, about starting a business from scratch, finding inspiration from architecture, and why she doesn't follow trends.

StyleBistro: What kind of business advice did your grandma give you?

She always said to do what you love. My grandmother started from nothing, not that I did the same, but I did kind of start from scratch. Just seeing her build this whole empire set the bar so high for me. Obviously I'll never match it but it's really inspirational to have someone like that in your family who was so determined. It just makes me work that much harder. 

SB: Did you ever talk to her about some of the obstacles you've run into?

Oh definitely. She always tells me not to be too in love with my design. I tend to get stuck on a certain direction I want to go in and need to think about mass appeal. It's hard to do that as a designer because you really are making art, it's a way of expressing yourself. 

SB: What kind of challenges did you encounter building a company from the ground up?

I think most of the challenges were about communication with the manufacturer and seeing how my designs translate into tangible objects. When you're sketching you're not sure exactly how it's gonna come out. So I think it was just that waiting time, getting the samples back and having to make adjustments. 

SB: Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

Mostly from my travels and looking at different cultures and their architecture and art. Actually, each of my bags is named after the place where it was inspired. There are a few from France and England [Marias is a historic district in Paris, Kensington is an affluent neighborhood in Western London.) For this collection I was really trying to focus on tailoring, the leather, and the textured aspects. My philosophy has has been to focus on creating timeless pieces with minimalist silhouettes and clean lines that will transition with different wardrobes. They are season-less, and I also wanted something that's not too trendy or heavy on the branding so it'd appeal to more people.  

SB: What's your creative process like?

I have a big file full of inspiration photos. Mostly I'm inspired by architecture. I'm really drawn to geographic lines. I look at architectural pieces and translate those into bags. I'll look at garment details. Also picking up the leather and getting a feel for it – seeing what shape it would look good in. I have a sketch book, I sketch hundreds of bags and choose the ones that are most compelling and look different.

SB: How would you describe your own personal style?

I think I like mixing different aesthetics. In general I've been kind of leaning more toward the androgynous look and finding really well-tailored pieces. Maybe it's because I lived in new york for two years. I was definitely more like a flower child in Malibu before and I've actually gotten rid of all those outfits. Now I'm really drawn to muted tones and sharp and clean lines. That's kind of the direction I went into with this collection.

SB: What do you think is the one item every woman should have in her closet?

I would say a great blazer. It works with any season, you can dress it up or dress it down, you can wear it with jeans or trousers. I'm a blazer freak. I think they are so key in every woman's closet. I think there are certain ones that are timeless. The ones with the shoulder pads were huge last fall but now they're put away in everyones closet. I think finding one that's long and works with your shape is really important.

SB: What trends are you excited about right now?

I love the bordeaux and blush colors I'm seeing in everything. And there's python leather everywhere. I think python is just such a chic skin. In general I try not to follow trends too much. I try to find pieces that are classic and have unexpected qualities. I just try not to follow trends too closely because we all know trends fade pretty fast.

SB: And it must kind of hinder the creative process.

Definitely. And in design you always draw from trends of the past, the 70s, the 40s. You try to update them for modern times. We're always reusing trends and recycling them. For example I bought this camouflage jacket last fall and now I can't even look at it. So I'm like, 'I'm going to stick to what I know, which is well-tailored things, and black and gray.'

Marketing Manager at Livingly Media