Tracy J. James, or also known as Julian, has been sewing since he was in middle school and starting his own brand has been a dream of his for a long time. He started out with a bow tie company that created unique bow ties that comes in many colors and designs, but about a year and a half ago, Julian started J2 Collections, a brand that creates one-of-kind bags for anyone and everyone. He wants to offer his clients with a bag that is designed for them specifically that you can’t find anywhere else.
Julie Valentine: Please describe the motive or message behind your brand.
Tracy James: The motive behind my brand is creating something that you can’t get anywhere else. It is literally a one-of-kind product. But I’m doing this it show people that you don’t have to be set by any standards. You can do anything you want to do.
JV: What prompted you to share this idea through your business?
TJ: Often times I go to stores and I’m looking for something very specific and don’t see it at all. Every brand I have created was born because something that wasn’t available in any of the stores I went to.
JV: What are some of the main challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
TJ: Some of that major challenges would be getting people to understand that they are dealing with a handmade product. The prices are going to reflect that because what they are getting isn’t going to be like anything else they can find anywhere else. They are pretty much getting top quality, handmade items made specifically for them.
JV: What is the biggest reward you experience as an entrepreneur?
TJ: Stuff like this; getting interviewed and seeing my product travel across the world. I actually received a picture from one of my clients and he was in Korea, carrying one of my bags. Just seeing stuff like that is so rewarding. It’s amazing.
JV: What do you think Indianapolis can do to support more local brands?
TJ: Stop looking down on local brands. A lot of the companies and brands that are here are going to be smaller. This is Indiana. Not to minimize our impact or importance, but we are not going to be as big as LA or New York. Just support the local scene and help spread the word.
Describe the kind of person who would wear your product.
TJ: Anyone and everyone.
JV: Who is one person you’d love to see in your brand?
TJ: I don’t like boundaries or standards. If Nicki Minaj came up to me and wanted a bag, I am going to make her a bag. If some former president wants one, I am going to make him a bag. I don’t set standards for the clients I serve. The only standard is their standard.
JV: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
TJ: Do it. The only thing holding you back is you. Not even money can hold you back. If you have a vision, fulfill it.
JV: How do you hope your brand will evolve in future years?
TJ: I am hoping to be everyone’s favorite designer. At the end, that is all that I want. No matter how big I get or how small I stay, everything is always going to be handmade. It’s going to be made with love and care. I do not plan on mass producing anything; even if I have to have a team of 100 people that have to work around the clock. It’s always going to be handmade and not mass produced. The client can add anything they want or take out anything they want. It’s always going to be a bag just for them.
JV: How do you think celebrity endorsed streetwear is influencing modern street style?
TJ: Celebrities are street style. That’s what they are. Those people are the most influential people in fashion. They are fashion. If you see Kanye rocking those sweaters with all those holes in them, people will buy them. Years ago, people wouldn’t have bought that but because Kanye is Kanye, they want it. The fact that they can take the popularity of their music and turn that into a street brand or whatever they want, is amazing.
JV: Did you have do any special training?
TJ: I have been sewing for years. Probably since I was in middle school. It starts with prototyping. Pretty much all of these bags except the ones going out to clients are prototypes. I don’t use lower quality materials for prototyping. I find that to be a short cut because when you get the higher grade stuff, it is not going to be the same. It’s not going to move or act the same. So, I don’t cut corners. I use the same materials in my prototyping as I do in my products.
JV: Was it harder to work with this material compared to lighter textiles?
TJ: I wouldn’t say it’s harder. It comes with a learning curve. I can’t use a standard sewing machine on leather. I learned the hard way destroying three or four different machines that I still keep in my office today just to remind me where I came from and what I have accomplished. A lot of this stuff does have to be hand stitched because you are not going to be able to get it on a machine. These handles are all hand stitched. The siding is hand stitched. There are some things you can’t cut corners with and if hand stitching is what you have to do then you have to do it.
JV: How long does it take you to make one of your bags?
TJ: Each design is different. I make more backpacks than anything else and as I go, I get a lot quicker. One of the messenger bags I did, I completed in two days. It ranges from two days to two weeks on some things and I have to put some stuff on the back-burner. My nine-to-five bag took me six months to make. That is because I had to literally put it away, forget everything I had in my mind set for it and then come back to it. Just because I set it back, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be done. Anything that I start, I have to finish.