Playing dress-up as a little kid doesn’t mean the child is destined for a fashion career, but for Jessica Robinson, she was just getting an early start.
“My sister always tells me that when she used to see me as a kid, taking pictures, she knew there was something there about fashion,” she says. “Fast forward through elementary and middle school, I was always in Limited Too. Every Friday, Mom would take me to the store to get a new outfit.”
By high school, Jessica was eye-balling the senior who won Best Dressed in the superlatives, the one who wore heels to school and worked at a popular shoe store. The two became friends and helped influence one another in developing their personal styles. (Of course, Jessica was nominated for Best Dressed her senior year.)
Jessica spent her earliest years in Knoxville, finishing sixth grade at Alcoa Elementary, but then her family moved to Virginia Beach, where she finished high school and went on to graduate with a degree in Fashion Merchandising from Old Dominion University, followed by a master’s degree in business in 2012.
“When I was at Old Dominion, between your junior and senior year, you have to do an internship, which I did with Dillard’s. I met a girl there who became my best friend at the time. She’d just graduated a year before me and got the manager position at Dillard’s. We started doing jewelry together and wanted to add a segment to our brand, so she started making garments on the side,” says Jessica. “Merchandising isn’t about sewing classes. My mom’s best friend had a sewing machine, so I’d borrow it and take it to my friend’s house and learn how to sew.”
For the next few years, Jessica focused on honing her craft, learning from others in person and following step-by-step videos on YouTube. Eventually, she and her business partner had different visions for the future and parted ways, which gave Jessica the autonomy to focus entirely on her passion for making bags.
“I never looked at what anyone else was doing. When I was doing jewelry, we were interviewed by someone who asked who our inspiration was, and my business partner said a few names, but I’ve never been the girl to flip through magazines to see what everyone else was doing. I keep up with color trends, so I look at Pantone and try to incorporate that, but my brand fits my personality,” says Jessica.
Her brand also reflects two women who’ve had a pivotal role in her life – her mother, whose middle name is Laura, and her grandmother, whose first name is Faye.
“The only preface to the name was when I sat down to think about it and decided I wanted it to mean something. So, I thought about my family,” she says. Thus, Laura Faye was born.
In 2019, Jessica decided to move home to Knoxville with her son, Khalil, and build her career here. When the pandemic hit, she hunkered down and focused on refining the Laura Faye brand. Though she started her brand using faux leather, she ultimately switched to making quality leather bags with her signature navy satin lining.
“Every collection I’d created was cool, but it didn’t have a voice to it. I didn’t even have a brand, really. The first five or six years, it was just a hobby,” says Jessica. “I’d go to New York City regularly to take sewing classes and refine my skills. I only recently got a manufacturer, which is like finding a needle in a haystack. Most affordable manufacturers are overseas, but I wanted one in the USA. Fortunately, I found a facility in New York. I still make the mini-clutch, but they are responsible for the bigger pieces.”
The journey from daydreaming as a young girl to producing luxury bags by hand has been marked by a few key things. She’s followed her instincts, prayed for clarity, learned from those with more experience, and worked steadily to build the brand organically. She’s said no to projects that didn’t feel right and taken chances when they did – including seeing her bags on the runway last summer at the NY Summer Fashion Explosion.
And all the while, her son was by her side, rooting for her.
“He’s been my wingman,” says Jessica. “Everything I’m doing, he’s a part of it. I do my own social media and he’s my photographer. He actually just got back from Paris for the International Rocketry Challenge. He’s in the aerospace club at Hardin Valley.”
(Editor’s note: Representing the United States, the Hardin Valley Academy Team 1 placed fourth in the international competition after the United Kingdom, France, and Japan.)
Decades after those early days playing dress-up, Jessica is still daydreaming. She has a vision for future garments and a signature perfume, and a dream of seeing Laura Faye in boutiques and department stores.
“I know wholeheartedly that Laura Faye is the next big name in luxury handbags. The mini-clutch that I make is an original design that I created the concept for, patent pending. You can’t find it anywhere else,” says Jessica. “I put so much quality and blood, sweat, and tears into everything I do. I stay home, I go to church, I’m a mom, and I sew. I’m pretty black and white. I understand people love their Louis and Fendi, but I can hold up my bags as far as quality to any of those bags.”
Learn more at Laura-Faye.com.
"I know wholeheartedly that Laura Faye is the next big name in luxury handbags. The mini-clutch that I make is an original design that I created the concept for, patent pending. You can’t find it anywhere else."