*”Where do you want to go?”
Our parents always seem to ask us this question in a direct or indirect way, when we are talking about our dreams and aspirations. This was no different for Phoenix-bred Jennifer Paige Boonlorn, who never suspected the question would pose such significance when her mother asked it. But today, she is probably more surprised than anyone that it led her to the career as a fashion designer. Yes, it is the career she dreamed of as a young girl, but she automatically acquiesced to her father’s wishes that she take on something different; like going to business school or studying to become a lawyer.
Daddy had his reasons for pushing his daughter towards a more traditional and secure career. As an architect, he struggled with design, he wanted to spare her from a career he felt would be a complete fail.
Jennifer and her family were in transit, driving along the road, when her mother turned around and asked her the where do you want to go question.
Unfortunately, she would never get to hear the answer.
Seconds later, at age 21, Jennifer found herself hanging upside down by her seat belt; after she awakened from a tragic auto accident. The family’s SUV tumbled several times before coming to a complete stop after it hit a concrete billboard. The accident killed her mother instantly and her father, a few hours later.
Worried extended family and friends kept watch over Jennifer, fearing the tragic loss of the two most important people in her life would lead her on a downward spiral towards drugs and partying.
Jenn says their expectations caused feelings of “pressure and scrutiny” and what surmounted to “noise” in her head. And admits that life afterwards was most difficult.
But she knew she couldn’t wallow in her despair, and found the strength to develop an “I’ll show them” attitude as she pushed forward.
She did start law school, and gave it a real shot – but it didn’t take long to realize her heart wasn’t in it and as a result she didn’t pass any of the required tests. The difficult decision to give up that goal came when she determined that law school had been her dads dream and not hers. It was then that she was able to leave it behind.
“I kept coming back to ‘I love fashion. I love marketing and packaging design and consumer behavior issues, so I started taking classes at Mesa Community College, they have a fashion program and I thought ‘I’ll just get my feet wet,’” she said in an exclusive interview with EURThisNthat.
Boonlorn already had one degree, and was working at a PR firm, so she wasn’t yet fully or emotionally committed. But as it turned out, she loved it! And her life changed totally after the director of the program chose her as one of the students to travel to New York and tour the fashion industry for one week!
“We met with designers, photographers and trend forecasters. I checked out Parsons and fell in love. I thought ‘This is so cool.’
The young design enthusiast got to check out the Creme de la Creme of fashion schools including the Fashion Institute of Technology aka F. I. T. and Parsons, a private art and design college in the trendy Greenwich Village section of NYC.
Parsons won her over. She fell in love with it, applied, and was accepted! Jenn says that broadening her horizons, and going outside of her beloved Arizona – and landing in NYC specifically, gave her a broader perspective of the fashion industry.
“Growing up in Phoenix especially…I figured ‘you could be a designer or you can be a buyer’ I didn’t realize all the careers in between,” she says. So when she applied and got into Parsons, and began studies in the Fall semester, she was super excited.
“It was the most magical time. My classes, they would send us to like, Sachs Fifth Avenue and we had to analyze the different floors and figure out why Oscar de la Renta was next to Ralph Lauren and not Marc Jacobs, and look at the demographics.”
Subsequent opportunities included an internship at Oscar de la Renta; work in the design center at American Eagle, and Women’s Wear Daily and though she compares the experience to “The Devil Wears Prada” said it was fun because she got to play with shoes and bags all day.
But it was headbands, that actually started Jenn on her way.
After four years in New York, as a regular customer at Henri Bendel’s, she noticed these “really cool” but pricey headbands selling for $150 a pop. She immediately got to work creating her own line of hair accessories for less; headbands, bows, clips, etc. After she showed them to one of her professors, he convinced her to show the collection to the stores’ buyers.
“The buyer loved it and she wanted the entire collection and she was like, ‘can you get this done in two weeks.'”
This challenge proved a true testament to just how badly the young designer wanted this career. Would she be able to come up with the goods.
“I wasn’t even set up as a business yet,” she states. “I didn’t have my LLC. They were just prototypes I had made in my apartment,” she tells the media sites editor, DeBorah B. Pryor. “But I got it all together. I had a trunk show [and] they put my stuff in the Fifth Avenue window.”
She was ecstatic! But Jenn found herself growing homesick. She yearned to return to the only family she had left – a sister and an aunt in Tuscon. She also wanted to be around as her niece was growing up.
“I was missing home. I was missing the more Southwest way of life. And I remember walking past Henri Bendels and seeing all of my hair accessories on the mannequin in the window and thinking ‘my fashion dreams, as far as New York City, are complete.”
Now in more of a ‘big fish, small pond’ environment, Jenn returned to her job at the PR/Marketing firm she was with prior to her NYC stint, and was put in charge of recruiting designers for a project celebrating the opening of a new retail outlet. It was during that time that a friend encouraged her to use the fashion degree she had worked so diligently to get – and realizing Arizona girls were very different from New York girls and wouldn’t be into the headband look, she put her talents into making handbags.
Soul Carrier is the result. Throughout all of her experiences, the tragic and the triumphant, Jennifer was able to find her true, authentic self. Her core. And she has lovingly created a line of fashionable handbags that she hopes will inspire other women too.
Each purse, five in all thus far, is named after someone special in her life; and carries with it, an embodiment of characteristics. The price ranges from $80 for “The Blake Emery” (A Clutchette seen below)
The playful innocence of childhood and the simplicity of having no fear is what Jennifer sees when observing her niece Blake Emery, whom she has named this clutch after. A simple pouch that can be used to keep all the items in your larger bag organized or on its own as an effortless clutch.
To the $175 “Jaime Leigh” below…
Determination, tenacity and living from an open heart, those are character traits Jennifer’s sister boldly reflects and this bag is named after her. A cross-body silhouette for when your wardrobe seeks a messenger-like bag.
To the Kelly Beth…Currently the line’s highest price item at $395.
Click here to visit the official Soul Carrier website, where you can see more style choices and make a purchase, or go to www.soulcarrier.com to learn more.