It’s In The Bag

a personal side of the story featured in the Maine Women MagazineMaine Style” column

By Amy Power | Photos by Amanda Whitegiver
October 1, 2018

Jess Lynch, owner of Pips and Squeaks in Yarmouth, and founder of the new bag company, Jessica Hart Lynch, struggles to answer when people ask, “What do you do?”

She is a small business owner, and is therefore seamstress, designer, and the marketing and sales department in one. Above all, she considers herself an artist. She tries to embody that designation in everyday choices, from designing ethically sourced children’s clothes, to launching her own line of bags. However, this last year she turned to her body as a canvas.

Jess was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. This was a surprise, but not a complete shock, as there is a family history. However, when she chose a complete double reconstruction, learning that she would no longer have nipples was jarring. “That was the first time I cried in front of a doctor,” she says. “It took a minute to realize this would actually be an opportunity to regain some control and design how I would see myself in the mirror every morning.” She took her passion for drawing and color and designed elaborate tattoos as a reminder in addition to helping fill the new void.  These artful tattoos now rest where the nipples that once nourished her two children used to be.

Rising Above & Demanding Change

A year later she is still suffering the effects of treatment, she still is on medications, she still has doctors appointments upon doctors appointments. Yet, despite all of that. Despite cancer. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she has chosen this moment to rise above. She has chosen to find opportunity in the midst of heartbreaking challenge. Jess chose this moment to launch her own line of bags on top of running her boutique and raising two young children.

But Jess isn’t just designing bags. As she’s done with her children’s clothing brand, Pip & Squeaks, every step in her creative process keeps labor ethics and environmental impact in mind. Leather is beautiful and durable, but the tanning process can be detrimental to the people who are doing it, and the process can be bad for the environment around the facility as well. So Jess honed in on leather alternatives that were visually interesting and durable. One such product is made from Piñatex, a natural material manufactured from the leaves of pineapples. The leaves are a natural agricultural byproduct that farmers would otherwise have to dispose of or burn. Instead, now the leaves are processed, so waste turns into income for farmers, providing them an additional revenue stream and creating another life for what would otherwise be refuse. The look and feel is certainly different from leather, but the durability, visual and physical texture, and ethical roots make it the perfect choice.

“If my story can inspire just one woman to get a mammogram, I will be happy” -JHL

Jess buys zippers made in the U.S. and sources fabrics from designer deadstocks, repurposing these gorgeous fabric ends into limited edition bags. The Jess Hart Lynch line isn’t limited to luggage and work totes. We also adore her selection of durable and reusable bags. You can keep them stashed in any tote and pull them out as necessary at the library, grocery store, or on any impromptu shopping trip. She also designs and manufactures wristlets, clutches, backpacks and more. From its heart, the brand is built upon a desire to provide people an ethical choice for locally made, responsibly sourced, useful items they can be proud to wear and love every day.  For now, every item is lovingly crafted by Jess in her Yarmouth studio. Each material is thoughtfully chosen for the story and meaning attached. Her long term goal is to have the JHL line carried at department stores, keeping the design and manufacturing here in Maine. The phrase “Made in Maine” has a proud tradition of quality, and she hopes to continue that tradition while creating ethical fashion we can all enjoy.

Here’s to you, Jess! We are thankful to you for sharing your story and being an inspiration in life and fashion <3